Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Organizing Your Medical Records
It's a good idea to keep copies of your medical records.
You'll need them if you change doctors, move, get sick when you're away from home, or
end up in an emergency room. If any of these things happen and you have your
records, you may get treatment more quickly, and it will be safer.
You can write a short summary of this information and keep a copy in your files and in your wallet or purse. You also can keep this information on a portable storage device for computers.
Be sure that someone you trust also knows where you keep it.
To get started, call your family doctor and ask for your records, or wait until your next visit. Ask your doctor if he or she can help you make a personal health record. Your family doctor also may be able to help you find other places where you may have medical records, such as at a hospital.
You'll need to sign a release form. In fact, you may need to sign one at every facility that you request
You also may be asked to pay for copies of your
records and the time it takes to make copies. And you also may be charged for
mailing fees. Ask how long it will take to receive your copies.
Here's a tip that might save you time and money: be specific about the records you want. Otherwise, the hospital or doctor's office might simply copy every single item in your file—and charge you for all of it. A smaller group of records might be cheaper and also easier to organize.
After you have your information, you need to organize it. Here are some
Use a 3-ring binder or wire-bound notebook
with dividers for each member of the family. If you get a notebook with
pockets, you can keep test results and other health papers in these pockets.
Use any software program you're comfortable with, or get software specifically for personal medical records.
Another option is to store your health
records on a secure Internet site. Your health plan or hospital may have one that you can use for free.
The American Health Information Management Association
(AHIMA) sponsors an Internet site where you can search for paper-based,
software-based, and Internet-based personal health record systems. Go to
Your medical records should include:
Current health information includes:
Keep records of:
Keep records of major health problems in your family, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, or diabetes. To keep track of your family health history, use this form(What is a PDF document?) or go to the Surgeon General's family health portrait website at www.hhs.gov/familyhistory.
Always carry these with you:
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Current as ofAugust 14, 2016
Current as of:
August 14, 2016
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.