Your Number One Most Important Asset for Getting Good Medical Care

You need to make and keep a “personal health record”.

Because of time constraints, doctors in our medical system frequently treat you without enough information about you, often with devastating results.

Here are the real facts about medical care today: Doctors see twenty or more patients daily. Each patient’s medical chart is a pile of papers that the doctor doesn’t have time to go through and organize properly. Doctors who properly keep a patient’s medical information in the form of a current problem list, a current medication list, and an easily-accessible history about your diseases, hospitalizations, lab tests and procedures, have disappeared with the advent of managed care, cost-cutting, patients changing doctors frequently due to changes in their jobs or healthcare benefits and drugstore clinics. And even if your doctor is one of the few that keeps that record truly organized, if you’re seeing more than one doctor, it’s almost certain that you don’t have a complete record of your health information in any single location.

The simplest, most pro-active and important thing you can do is to keep yourself safe in healthcare is to keep your own medical record- what is called a “personal health record”.

The most important thing about this personal health record, PHR, is that is organized and complete. And the only person motivated enough to take the time to make that happen is YOU.

You don’t need copies of all of your records to get this done. It does not matter the exact what date things were done; if you don’t remember what happened to your body five years ago, then it’s time to find out and record it so you and future doctors will know; and don’t think that just because your doctor has your records that he is able to access your important information in a timely and meaningful way. And remember, your doctor will not always be available, even if he has the most organized and complex records in the history of record-keeping.

Doctors love to see medical information organized in the very particular format that they’ve been taught since medical school to use, and a good online personal health record will put your medical information into that format. Not all doctors will be familiar with personal health records yet, so after you’ve gotten your record together, just print it out and give it to your doctor at each visit. And be sure and update it when you get home.

Not all doctors will be familiar with personal health records et so after you’ve gotten your record together, just print it out and give it to your doctor at each visit and be sure and update it when you get home.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking “I’m really healthy– I just don’t need to do that, because I don’t have any problems.” Here’s the problem with that: you may not have any current medical problems, but unless you give the doctor your personal health records that lets him see your “I’m healthy” history in an organized way, then a good doctor still has to take the time to ask you a long list of questions about your health and then organize that information instead of spending his time focusing on the problem at hand and getting straight to a proper diagnosis and treatment.

“The meticulous collection of personal health information throughout a patient’s life can be one of the most important inputs to the provision of proper care. Yet for most individuals, that health information is dispersed in a collection of paper records that poorly organized and often illegible, and frequently cannot be retrieved in a timely fashion, making it nearly impossible to manage many forms of chronic illness that require frequent monitoring and ongoing patient support”1

Studies, Footnotes and Resources:

  1. Institute of Medicine. Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2001, p. 15.