You may have heard your doctor refer to “your chart,” or consult your “medical history.” You probably also have the idea of some file that exists somewhere with every piece of paper that has been generated in the course of your medical care. The truth of this is a little more complicated.
Your doctor likely has access to any files generated within the same healthcare system or hospital. They should also have access to files that you’ve provided from another doctor. However, you can (and should) work to build up a PHR, or Personal Health Record. You can then use this document to pass along to other doctors, or consult for yourself.
A PHR is a full record of the medical care you have received over the course of your life. It includes primary care files, files from specialists, and things like dental care.
How can I build my PHR?
Pulling together your PHR can be an initially daunting task, but one that should get easier as you go along. Here are some easy steps to take to get a clear picture of your personal health history.
- Make a list of all the places you can remember getting treatment. Gather contact information, and as much as you can remember about the treatment you received there. For example: “I was in this emergency room in April 2011 with a broken arm,” or “Dr. Smith has been my dentist since about 2007.”
- Contact all the service providers on your list and ask if they have plans for helping patients create a PHR. Ask if the records are in an electronic format, or if you’ll have to request paper copies. You can also work with your doctor or the administrator to determine which parts of your record you need.
- Ask for forms to release your data, usually called an “authorization for the release of information.” Complete it and return it to your doctor’s offices. You can expect to pay a small processing fee, particularly if you’re dealing with paper forms, rather than electronic.
- Wait for your doctor to mail you the information—it may take up to 60 days.
- File everything in a clearly marked folder. You can decide how you want to organize the information within the folder: chronologically? by specialist? but be sure to understand how you’re filing.
- Upload everything to Jazmine.com, so you can take it with you, and access it easily from the cloud.
- Update your file every time you go to the doctor or dentist. Ask your doctor for paper copies of test results and prescriptions so you can add to your file. Be sure to update things both physically and on Jazmine.com.
Other Things to Consider
You may want to start separate files for not only yourself, but other members of your family. Being able to give your children their PHRs when they leave home, or gathering well in advance an elderly parent’s medical history can be a huge time saver in the future.
You should also keep in mind that the data you’re gathering is private, personal, and confidential. Be sure to keep it in a safe place, and only tell close family members or friends who might be caring for you in an emergency where it is.