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Family Medical Records (cont.)

Home Medical Records

More extensive and inclusive medical records can be kept at home. The more you know about your medical history (and that of your family), the more active role you are able to take in your medical care.

  • Keep these types of information (in addition to the information already discussed):
    • Immunization records (both adult and children)
    • Names of all doctors and health-care professionals and their contact numbers
    • Pharmacy phone numbers
    • Poison control center phone numbers (find your local poison control center number now through the American Association of Poison Control Centers)
    • Copies of birth certificates
    • Test results and medications
      • It is always a good idea to keep track of any tests such as cholesterol or blood pressure, especially if taking medications related to these conditions. If you change doctors or have a medical problem requiring emergency medical care, it is often helpful for you to be able to provide so-called baseline values. What may be a normal blood pressure for some can be markedly abnormal for others. It is also helpful to have a history of these values to judge the effectiveness of new or different medications for yourself.
      • Although the most important information to keep on hand are your current medications and doses (and medical allergies/adverse reactions experienced), it certainly would be helpful if you track past medications. This is very useful if you change doctors. There is little utility in switching to a medication that you have already tried and found not to work. Obviously, new doctors would be unable to know about past treatment failures if you were unable to provide them this information.
      • If you see different doctors, it is crucial to make sure each knows all of your medications. You can avoid dangerous combinations of drugs that have been prescribed by various specialists. If you use one pharmacy to have your prescriptions filled, your pharmacist can give you a printout of all your medications and check for potential interactions.
  • Store your medical records at home.
    • Handheld personal-assistant software interfaces with your home computer, allowing for storage on your home computer's hard drive.
    • The web sites allow maintenance of records online and also provide options for printing hard copies. There are also a number of other computer-based options, including spreadsheet software and record-keeping software.
    • For those without computer access, the simplest thing would be a file cabinet with folders for each member of the family. That way all of the important records would be in one place and would be easy to access if needed. Paper copies of the important records are possible, and duplicate copies would be a good idea.
  • Special circumstances: The elderly
    • People who live in nursing homes and other senior-living arrangements are usually monitored by medical staff where they live. If they go to the emergency department, hospital, or to a new physician, copies of their medications and health histories should be sent with them by the facility. This is very helpful, especially when the older person has underlying confusion or memory loss and cannot give a history of the problem.
    • It is especially important for the older person to carry a limited medical history with them at all times. At the very least, they should have contact information for how to obtain their medical information. People living alone present a different challenge. For emergency medical personnel to be able to locate medical records in a timely fashion, the older person should keep these with them at all times, perhaps in a wallet or something else that is always in their possession. (Posting this information on the inside door of their apartment or room is a practical solution.) MedicAlert bracelets are one helpful solution, but these are not sufficient to include all of the important information. It is up to each person to make these records easily accessible.

Final Words on Family Health Records

  • Always keep your personal and family health records updated. If a new medication is added or dosage of a medication is changed, an important phone number is changed, you have seen a new doctor, you have a new diagnosis, or any other changes pertinent your or your family's health, the personal health records should reflect the changes.
  • A person close to you needs to know that you have such medical records available and, more importantly, needs to know where they are kept.
  • Keep a one-page copy of updated personal health records with you at all times.
  • If you have questions about what may be important enough to be placed on your personal medical records, consult with your primary-care or family physician.

Medically reviewed by Donald Lee, DO; Board Certified Family Practice


Brody, J.R. "A Case for Expanding the Doctor's Checklist." The New York Times. 2000.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/5/2014

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