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Easy ways to organize your family’s medical records

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Avoid medical errors & injury

Do you know where your family's medical records are? What would you do if you were traveling and one of your kids - or perhaps your mom or grandma - had an accident and ended up in the hospital? Would you remember what medications they are taking or can't take? Keeping your family's medical records together and up to date is essential for their health and safety. And keeping them organized and accessible will save you time and help you avoid last minute panic.

Medical Records

Moms are the record keepers

Whether you have one child or half a dozen, keeping track of your family's medical and health history is a necessary part of keeping them healthy and safe. And if you are caring for your parents or other older members of your family, you have even more reason to get your family's medical records in order.

Former Good Morning America host Joan Lunden, who recently partnered with PassportMD.com, an award-winning provider in online health record and wellness services, says "Keeping track of medical records is overwhelming, especially with moms working out of the home and trying to take care of their kids. I have young twins as well as older kids and I stay concerned about all of their health."

Further, Lunden says, moms who are part of the "sandwich generation" (caring for their parents as well as their children), face even more challenges. As the mother of seven kids and the primary caregiver of an ailing mother, Joan recently had to recreate the last 10 years of her mother's medical history from scratch after her brother, who was her mother's primary caregiver, passed away. This was particularly challenging because Joan's mother is beginning to suffer from dementia and has trouble remembering doctors, appointments and prescriptions.

"PassportMD immediately answered my need for organization. All my family's medical records are in one place," states Lunden. "Busy moms have only so much time to get things done." Lunden is quick to add that there are other record keeping websites but a distinct advantage of PassportMD is privacy. To safeguard valuable health information, all medical records, living wills, trusts, insurance documents and photos are securely stored in a centralized place.

Organized, up to date medical records can save lives

Keeping your family's medical records together and up to date can literally mean the difference between life and death. Errors in medications or medical procedures cause injury and death every year. According to the Center for Safety and Clinical Excellence, only two percent of drug administration errors are intercepted and the annual national cost of preventable adverse drug events is around $2 billion.

"These startling statistics from the Center for Safety and Clinical Excellence are just a small sampling of the reasons why patients need to be responsible for keeping up with their medical and health history, instead of relying upon the medical professionals to do it," says patient advocate Gloria Lopez-Cordle, who created the Personal Medical Journal, out of necessity to care for her son.

Lopez-Cordle explains, "The book started when my second child was born with a birth defect – spina bifida. There was so much information to remember and comprehend that I began taking notes. I found maintaining a journal extremely helpful to medical professionals, as team players, in assisting my son with the multiple anomalies and situations as they occurred. It has saved his life many times and it can do the same for others."

Reasons to get your family's medical records in order

Whether you choose online or hand-written medical record keeping, you are helping to ensure your family gets the best medical care as well as save you the time and hassle of repeatedly searching for important medical information when you need it.

Other benefits include:
· Reduces risk of medication errors or medical mistakes
· Consolidates all of your family's health information
· Can help reveal family patterns of disease
· May lead to early detection of inherited, genetic or chronic illnesses
· Makes you and your family active participants in your health care
· Fosters communication with your doctor
· Tracks immunizations, allergies, tests, medical procedures and appointments

Options for medical record keeping

Online record keeping is becoming quite popular because of its convenience and accessibility with the click of a button. For some, keeping hard copy records is preferred. Regardless of the method you choose, the key is to actually use them and keep them up to date. Here are a few record keeping options to consider.

PassportMD (PassportMD.com)
Recipient of the "Best Personal Health Record" award by the Medical Records Institute at the 2008 TEPR Conference. Offers a range of easy to use services including obtaining your medical records for you, wellness tracker, education center, medication and appointment reminders, and a record safety deposit box.
Cost: Monthly fees range from $4 to $17.

Microsoft Health Vault (HealthVault.com)
Won the 2008 Global Healthcare Information Product of the Year award. Stores your health and medical information, tracks your exercise and health conditions, lets you control your level of privacy and is partnered with a number of websites and fitness devices.
Cost: Creating an account is free.

Records For Living (RecordsForLiving.com)
Offers a downloadable family medical record keeping program called HealthFrame, which includes emergency cards, printable medical history report and health diary to journal chronic conditions or general health.
Cost: $39.95 for electronic download

Personal Medical Journal by Gloria Ann Lopez-Cordle
A spiral-bound notebook that tracks medical and dental history of a single family member – particularly helpful for children with special needs or older family members with chronic disease. Journal can be customized to suit your needs and is easy to take with you when you travel.
Cost: $23

Your Family Health Organizer by Jodie Pappas
A ring-bound medical record organizer that can accommodate two parents and up to three children. Provides a separate section for each family member and tracks milestones for children, appointments, medications, and hospital stays. Even has an identity option that allows you to include your family's fingerprints.
Cost: $19.95

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