This article caught my interest particularly as I read it after seeing a patient who was prescribed a “little white pill” by a physician who, despite several weeks going by, had not yet sent me their consultation note.
As a society, we have become dependent on “someone else” keeping track of perhaps the most vital information to our lives, that being our medical information. Interestingly, when I travel to Paraguay, many, if not most, of the Guarani keep copies, some times the only copies, of their x-rays, MRIs and test results so that when they visit a doctor (which by the way can be a cultural celebration, but that’s a discussion for another day). How is it that in our culture, we expect someone else to keep track of our information? After all, it is our information, isn’t it?
Although there are a litany of services that allow us to store our health information “in the cloud” or on some device such as Apple’s “Health” application, there is an even easier solution and one that two very dear patients provide to me at every office visit….a USB drive.
USB drives can be purchased for pennies on the dollar (Best USB drives at Amazon, USB drives at Staples)…okay, maybe not “pennies” but you get my point…and the ability to store information on them is very easy.
You simply create a document in your word processor of choice, Microsoft Word, Apple Pages for Mac, Apple Pages for iOS, LibreOffice (free) or for that matter the text editor that came with your computer or smartphone and simply enter the information. Save it as a “PDF” so that everyone can read it (Adobe’s PDF reader is free) and boom….you have your crucial health information available to whomever you choose.
Apple make this process incredibly easy (as are most things done by Apple) as you can simply “Print as a PDF” from any application. If you are using a Windows-based computer which does not have this feature, first consider your choices in life, then consider using a tool such as PDF Convert to convert your document.
In a perfect world, your physician would give you access to your own electronic healthcare record which is what I offer to my patients, but I’ve not heard of other physician offices doing this on the same scale.
If you go the USB AKA “thumb drive” route, here are some crucial elements you’ll want to have on it:
- Your demographic information with the correct spelling of your name, your date of birth, your emergency contact person, blood type and immunization record
- a copy of your insurance card if applicable…but then again, if you’re a client of a certain insurance company, well, don’t worry about it, it’s public knowledge now anyway!
- a copy of any “advanced directive” such as your healthcare proxy, “do not resuscitate” or DNR documents. You can obtain a copy of this form by visiting The Maine Hospital website
- The name and address of your Family Physician as well as any specialists you see. Be sure to include their phone number, fax number and office email address
- A list of your medications (which you should keep updated…and there are some great smartphone apps for that) and allergies as well as the name and address of your pharmacy.
- The most recent copy of any lab work you have had. It also helps to have a copies of previous reports. If your doctor’s office is unable to give you a copy (and I can’t think of why this would happen), you can request a copy from the lab you had them performed at.
- Any other significant reports such as x-rays, MRIs, lab results, consultation notes, etc. At the very least, you want the reports of any radiology tests, but having a copy of the actual picture files is a bonus.
An informed and knowledgeable patient is a stronger and healthier person. Know your data, take ownership of your health information and partner with your physician. Keeping track of your medical records with a simple USB drive is a great place to start!