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Family Medical Records (cont.)

How to Access Medical Information

How should I carry and store all of this information?

It would seem impossible, even impractical, to carry all of this information with you at all times. Fortunately, there are a number of reasonable alternatives to carrying a photocopied medical chart.

  • One-page summary: The simplest, and arguably the best, way to have immediate access to personal medical records is a one-page summary of your medical history. This single piece of paper could be carried in a purse or wallet and should be kept with you at all times. This one-page history should include the most critical information that will be useful in an emergency and also easy for a doctor to get a quick idea of your personal health information in a non-emergent circumstance. This page should include the following:
    • Name, address, home phone number, and date of birth
    • Name and contact of primary-care physician
    • Name and contact information of the next of kin or the best person who can provide additional health and personal information about you
    • Brief list of chronic medical diseases and previous surgeries
    • List of all prescribed and over-the-counter medication with dose and frequency
    • Medication allergies
    • Health insurance information
    • Name and phone number of the pharmacy
    • Personal wishes in regard to end-of-life decisions (CPR, breathing machine, artificial life-saving heroic measures)
  • Electronic medical records (EMR): The Internet provides another option for people to organize their family medical records online. Many companies have developed web sites designed for recording medical information that can be reached from any computer with Internet access. Some of these companies even have options for printing a summary of the information that you can carry with you. Additionally, some of the sites are designed to allow doctors access to the information in emergencies. The information is password protected, and some of the sites do not charge for their services. These online electronic health records (EHR) sites are very useful; however, they do not replace the official medical records kept by your physicians and your hospital. They hold the data which you enter in a template and update personally for your own health-care records or for someone whom you care for. Although, there are more and more of these sites being developed, a few of them are listed below:
  • Electronic medical records (EMR) software is also becoming increasingly more available in medical offices and hospitals. One of the biggest advantages of this technology is that a patient's record can be accessed each time they go to the emergency room, hospital, or the physician's office. So long as a patient goes to the same facility, the records could be easily accessed during each visit by their treating doctors. However, it is worth noting that there is a variety of EMR software, and facilities and hospitals often use different programs. Furthermore, if an individual presents to different hospitals, obtaining information from another facility has to be authorized by the patient before any medical information can released under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
  • Wireless access: The increasing popularity of handheld personal digital devices and other handheld computers allows you the option of electronically maintaining your medical records. A number of companies and individuals have developed software for these personal data assistants that are specifically designed to hold medical information. These programs can be obtained from the Internet. Although some are free, many require a registration fee to obtain the complete program. Software titles include Medical Records v10.2, Medical Records v2.0, Personal Medical Records v2.14, Family Medical Records v3.0, and 4T Medical v1.3.
  • Smartphone applications: There are currently similar phone applications ("apps") available that can be used for the purpose of storing and organizing one's personal medical information. Many medical records apps exist for smartphone (iPhone, Android, etc.) devices, some of which charge a fee while others are free of charge.

The one-page personal health history is often preferred because it can be accessed most easily in an emergency situation and is carried with the person all the time. Invariably, these electronic personal health record web sites require a password for your personal protection. Thus these health-record organizers could be difficult to access by health-care personnel if the individual is unable to log in. Oftentimes the medical staff may not know if a patient has one of these services online. A summary can even be printed from some of these programs to be carried around and readily available.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/5/2014

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