Today's Medicine

Medical Records 101: What To Have To Help Your Doctor and Yourself

Keys. Check.

Wallet. Check.

Phone. Check.

Some things you just don’t leave home without. Does your list include your medical records?

Your top priority may not be making sure you and your doctor have access to your records. But just as you keep your driver’s license current and handy, you should keep your latest medical information within reach. And yes, that even means keeping a copy on you.

What should my records include?

The basics:

  • Current medications
  • Current medical providers
  • Surgical history
  • Immediate family member medical history
  • Medical allergies (not reactions)
  • Dates of your most recent preventative screenings and vaccines

If you have any dental or vision diagnoses that requires medical therapy, have those records at the ready. Patients with osteoporosis should have dental records available. Diabetic patients need their vision records.

What’s the best way to save and access my records?

There are many options, and you should consider employing more than one. Having a backup plan can save you from a headache if records are misplaced or unavailable.

Online access: The my.Bestcare portal allows Methodist patients to access their health records, review lab results and documents, refill prescriptions, schedule appointments and receive messages from health care providers. Patients with my.Bestcare accounts can use the HealtheLife app to access the portal using smartphones or tablets. Methodist patients also can access their records through the Apple Health app.

Learn more about using my.Bestcare, HealtheLife and Apple Health.

Keep your own copy: It’s a good idea to have your up-to-date records at home, whether it be a hard copy or in a computer file. Keeping a one-page summary of your medical history in your wallet also can come in handy.

Get them transferred: Don’t assume your records follow you. Many offices will ask you to complete paperwork allowing the disclosure of your health information if they need your records, but if you’re unsure, ask.

When completing the authorization paperwork, be sure to write legibly and provide complete, specific information to avoid delays. You should expect it to take at least two weeks for your records to arrive by mail, although the process can be expedited if you have a scheduled appointment. Obtaining your records can be a confusing process, and getting it right matters. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance in making your request.

More information for Methodist patients on obtaining medical records.

Why is this so important?

A smooth transition: Getting your records from a previous provider doesn’t happen instantly. Remembering to have those records transferred as soon as you get a new provider, when possible, will help ease the transition. Having an up-to-date home record or access to a patient portal also can help make that first visit with your new physician more efficient.

Immunization data: Vaccines are given at certain ages based on the risk for a disease and the likelihood of building immunity. Knowing the dates of your vaccinations helps your doctor plan your future care and vaccine schedules.

Avoiding problems: Having up-to-date records available can save time and money, making it less likely that you experience problems such as unwelcome medication interactions, duplications of tests, delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis.

Technology has its flaws: Computer systems go down. Fax machines can fail. Mistakes happen. While technology has made medical records easier to save and share, there’s no substitute for a hard copy. That one-page summary in your wallet can help prepare you for a variety of inconveniences. 

Your involvement: You and your knowledge of your history are important parts of your medical team. Being active in the maintenance of your records will help your doctor and lead to better outcomes.

If you have questions about medical records, contact the health information management department at Methodist Hospital, Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital or Methodist Physicians Clinic.

About the Author

Dr. Lindsay Northam is very passionate about patient care. In order to deliver exceptional care for people, she believes it is important to form strong patient relationships.

Dr. Northam believes that all patients should leave her clinic at Methodist Physicians Clinic feeling they were truly heard and respected.

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