Top 10 tips to manage your personal health care records

Oct 10, 2011 at 7:17 a.m. ET

As health care treatment becomes more complex, it’s more important than ever to have a complete record of your medical history. Controlling your data gives you the power to actively participate in your care. It also provides medical professionals a complete picture so they can design better treatment plans and avoid medical errors. Here are my top 10 tips to managing your personal health care records.

Woman organizing medical records

1Get organized

Keep track of each medical provider you see, logging the names and locations of all clinicians along with the dates of medical visits. Record a history of medical providers from as far back as you can remember.

2Select a method

Decide which tracking method works best for you: A paper journal? A software program? The important thing is to select a method and stick with it for a complete record.

3ask for access

Does your insurance company have a consumer portal? Does your doctor offer you access to your information online? Does your hospital system provide a patient secure web portal? Ask your doctors for copies of your records each time you go for a visit.

4Be prepared

Take a look at your records prior to your doctor's appointment. Bring a copy of your medical history to doctor's visits. Use technology to capture your data and your family's health information. This is especially important for caregivers and parents of young children, and women often take the lead on managing medical care in these roles. Having the right tools can also encourage men to become active participants in their own care and that of family members.

5Delegate to save time

Compiling and managing health information is an important but time-consuming task. If you have no time, engage a service to get you started and to keep the records updated.

6Keep your records current

Make sure you make necessary changes and add important information by setting reminders to complete periodic updates. Updates can include new doctor's visits, prescriptions or personal health notes.

7Stay informed

Many medical reference sites provide updates to subscribers. Establish an alert system to be informed of new medical recommendations and check for regular updates.

8Make sure records are accessible away from home or during emergencies

When you're on the road or dealing with a natural disaster like a hurricane, earthquake or floods, it's important to make sure you can access your personal health records. Consider an independent web-based solution to maintain access.

9Get started slowly

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, break the records compilation task into smaller components. Start with yourself, then add your family members.

10Be empowered

Most people don't think about their medical records until they're facing a health issue. At that point, compiling records can seem overwhelming. If you're prepared ahead of time, you are empowered: Get into the habit of using the information – it's your health, so take control!

More health tips for women

Health care: 5 Tips for saving money
How to get more out of your health care
5 Common women's health problems