33 Essential Tips to Take Control of Your Medical Records

Technology has made information more available than ever before. Indeed, health informatics is a field that focuses on using technology to improve our quality of health care. Information really is power, and with the availability of information on all manner of subjects, it only makes sense that you should have access to the information that relates to you and your health. After all, health professionals can access you medical records and see the most intimate workings of your body. Shouldn’t you be able to?

The good news is that you can. Your medical records are yours, and you have the right to see them. If you are ready to take control of your medical records, here are 33 tips that can help you:

  1. Keep your own records: First of all, you can keep your own records. Make notes of your health care visits, and what was said. You can also make notes of your prescriptions. Keep your own records, and you will know what is happening.
  2. Get a copy: You do not have to rely on your memory to keep your medical records. Before you leave any appointment, ask for a copy. From blood tests to dental records, there is no reason why you cannot have a copy of your records.
  3. Bring your own copies to visits: Be prepared with your own copies on visits to new health professionals, in order to help new providers better understand your situation.
  4. Ask for more than a summary: In some cases, all you will receive is a summary. Ask for more than that. Unfortunately you may have to pay a fee to get your records.
  5. Be organized: Organize your records so that you know where they are. Have a system in place that allows you to find them quickly.
  6. Keep your records safe: Make sure your records are in a safe place. You want essential records safe from damage and from theft.
  7. Watch what you sign: Before you put your signature to paper, make sure that you know what you are signing. Read it carefully so that you understand what is being shared, and who you are authorizing to control your health records.
  8. Know your rights: You own the information in the medical records — even though the health care professional owns the actual document. Realize that you have control over the information.
  9. Consider limiting who can see the records: You do want some third parties to see your medical information, especially in emergency situations. Talk to your health care professional about those he or she is sharing information with, and consider not allowing some third parties to see your medical information. Your health care provider needs your permission to share your medical records around.
  10. Communicate clearly: Make sure your intentions are clearly communicated to health providers and to your family. What you want done in certain circumstances are part of medical records, and people should know your wishes.
  11. Double check information in your medical records: It is vital that you double check the information found in your medical records. You need to make sure that it is accurate. Don’t wait until too much time has passed, either. Compare what is in your “official” records with what is in your personal notes.
  12. Have mistakes corrected: By law, you can have misleading or incorrect information corrected. If there is a mistake in your medical records, you need to have it fixed.
  13. Be careful of what information you share: You do not have to fill in everything on the sheet. Be careful of what information you are sharing, and if you have a question, ask why the health provider needs it. If you are not satisfied that the information is necessary, do not give it.
  14. Be wary of who gets your information: Many people like to health fairs in order to get free tests. These are useful, but be careful! In some cases you may be giving your information to someone planning to sell it elsewhere.
  15. Find out why: If a health care provider wants to share information elsewhere, find out why. You should know reasons for divulging personal information.
  16. Protect other personal information: Realize that other personal information, such as your Social Security number, address and birthday can be used by identity thieves to obtain medical services in your name. Try to keep this information private.
  17. Be on the alert for identity fraud: If
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    you discover that your identity has been stolen, make sure you check for unauthorized medical procedures in your name.

  18. Check information from health care providers and insurance companies: When you receive information on services performed from your health insurance company or health care provider, check it over. Make sure it is for something you really had done, and was not done for someone posing as you.
  19. Have old records destroyed: When you change doctors, you should request that your old health professional destroy copies of your records once copies have been sent to your new physician.
  20. Make sure records are updated: Try to make sure that copies of your records are updated with new information.
  21. Consider records for legibility: Charts can often be illegible. If something in your medical records appears sloppy or difficult to read, ask to have it clarified — and copied so that it is readable.
  22. Find out about HIPAA: Check to see that your health care providers are in compliance with HIPAA laws for maintenance and disclosure of medical records.
  23. Get an electronic copy: Electronic medical records are becoming increasingly popular. If your health care provider has electronic medical records, ask for your own copy.
  24. Keep back ups: You should have back ups of information, especially electronic information. This can be stored on external drives or via web based back up services.
  25. Consider setting up an online profile: If you want your medical records easily accessible, there are services like Google Health that can provide you with a way to manage your health records electronically.
  26. Go mobile: There are iPhone apps and other mobile apps that can help you better manage your health records on the go.
  27. Make sure information is available: When you go to the ER, or have some other problem, you want your information to be available. Make sure that family members know where medical records are.
  28. Critical records should be accessible: Make sure emergency cards, and critical information is easily available to those who might need it to help you.
  29. Demand access to your records: If your health care provider is stalling, demand access. You should be able to get a hold of records.
  30. Know distribution channels for medical records: Understand how health care professionals transmit information — including through email fax. Know how you information may be shared, and who is looking at it on the other end.
  31. Encourage electronic health records: Encourage your health care providers to participate in systems that make it easier for members of your health team to share records.
  32. Know what is in your records: You should be your best health advocate, knowing what is in your records.
  33. Follow up: Whether requesting copies of test results, or correcting errors, follow up to make sure your medical records are in proper order.
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