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Family Medical Records

Facts Family Medical Records

The personal medical history, as recorded in the medical record, can play a central role in evaluating patients in a variety of medical settings, particularly in emergencies. When doctors evaluate patients for any medical issue or complaint, easy access to the medical history of the patient helps the doctor provide more efficient, accurate, and appropriate care and to minimize unnecessary and costly tests.

Having personal medical information readily available can be particularly important in the following situations:

  • During a visit to the emergency room
  • Going to urgent-care centers
  • Being evaluated before a surgery
  • Visiting a new doctor or a specialist for the first time

Having current personal and family medical records can be even more important for people who themselves are unable to provide their medical history adequately, such as children and the elderly.

With the advancement of electronic medical records (EMR) or electronic health records (EHR) in recent years, medical information is more easily accessible by health-care professionals. However, it is still important to carry one's own medical records. A few of the many reasons for this is the following:

  • Records from one hospital may not be accessible by another hospital.
  • Records from one medical office using one EMR system are not accessible from another medical office using different system.
  • Authorization for release of records is still required for obtaining medical records from another doctor's office or medical facility.
  • Lists of medications frequently change during outpatient clinic visits, which may not be available to another clinic or emergency room.

Why should people carry their own medical records?

Why should I have to keep this information?

Personally carrying one's own medical records has many benefits when receiving medical care.

In many situations, especially in emergencies when a patient may be unresponsive or otherwise too ill to adequately provide information verbally, knowing the past medical history becomes vitally important in initiating the correct and timely course of evaluation and treatment. Additionally, this information can significantly diminish the chances of repeating tests and subsequently reducing health-care costs.

Patients often arrive at hospitals without any information about their medical problems. This presents a difficult and sometimes potentially dangerous situation. Although the tests and medicines that doctors have are very powerful, they can also be unsafe if used on the wrong person. Knowledge of your medical problems can effectively prevent giving you the wrong medication or performing a risky or unnecessary test. Additionally, many of these tests are time-consuming and can delay important treatments. If an individual carries his/her own medical information for the doctor to review, it can allow the doctor to save time and provide care more effectively and efficiently.

It is also important to realize that in many emergency situations, a patient may arrive with inability to talk or may be unconscious, and evaluation and treatment need to begin promptly before the patient's condition further deteriorates. It is not uncommon that no one familiar with the patient is available to assist with providing medical history. Even when a family member, friend, or caregiver is available, they are often overwhelmed by the situation and unable to focus in order to give the necessary information.

Beyond the need to provide appropriate care is the importance of contacting family, friends, and other physicians who may know valuable information about a particular patient. Not only can these people provide important information, but they also can offer much-needed emotional and decision-making support for the patient. Having the ability to contact families early in a patient's care can help simplify very complicated and challenging situations.

Emergency medical care can be life-saving but is often filled with difficult and expensive decisions that must be made rapidly. Maintaining one's own records is one of the best ways for someone to take an active role in his or her own health care and to ensure that he or she receives rapid, effective, and safe treatment in both emergency and routine medical situations.

Availability of personal health records is crucial even in nonemergency conditions. For example, visiting a new physician in the office can be stressful for a patient and he or she may not remember all the facts about their medical past. They also may not know how much of the information is pertinent. Although the doctor goes through a series of questions methodically, a patient may not be aware of all the facts that are important to the doctor.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/3/2016

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