October is Organize Your Medical Information Month
While it’s fun to peruse national calendars and learn that October 14 is Be Bald and Be Free Day and October 24 is National Bologna Day, certain days and months throughout the year are also set aside to address more serious causes and issues. Such is the case this month, which is designated as Organize Your Medical Information Month.
Health care visits, medications, and insurance claims can sometimes seem overwhelming if you don’t have a system to keep track of them, particularly if you are juggling numerous medical appointments, medications and insurance claims for yourself, or you are in charge of overseeing another family member’s medical information. By developing a system that works for you, you’ll be a better position to find the information you need when you need it — especially important in emergency situations, when you move, or when you change doctors — rather than sorting through piles of paperwork that you’ve tossed in a box or file folder.
Good health care is at the top of most seniors’ lists of important lifestyle considerations, and having an organized system that puts all of your medical records at your fingertips can reduce your stress and ensure that you can easily provide up-to-date information to your health care providers and monitor paperwork from your insurance companies.
Medicare.org suggests these tips that will help you put your records in order:
• Gather and Keep Copies of All Medical Records. Find a system that works for you. It could be as simple as a large three-ring binder or a set of file folders that you keep in a designated spot. File paperwork as it comes in and you’ll always be ready to find it when it’s needed or direct a friend or family member to it if you are hospitalized and unable to retrieve it yourself.
• Organize Your Medical History. Sorting your healthcare history into categories can help you keep track of it more easily. Some of these areas include:
- Medical appointment information, such as date, time, health care provider and any recommendations from your visit, such as follow-up tests or dietary suggestions
- Dates and information about major surgeries and illnesses
- Immunization records
- Cancer screenings, such as mammograms, colonoscopies, PAP tests, and prostate tests
- Emergency information, such as a pacemaker, hearing or vision problems, and allergies to medications
- Chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, and asthma
- A list of drug and food allergies
- Past and present medications, including side effects
- Family history of the disease, such as diabetes, glaucoma and breast cancer
- Hearing, vision and dental records
- Childbirth history
• List All Medications & Prescriptions. Keep a detailed list of all prescribed and over-the-counter medications and supplements, including the drug name, date prescribed, dosage, the condition the medication treats and any side effects.
• Organize Billing & Insurance Documents. This is a good place to keep a copy of your insurance and Medicare or Medicaid card. In addition, sort your health care bills and receipts in chronological order so that you can compare them to insurance payments and explanation of benefit forms. If you need to speak with an insurance representative, always record the date, time and name of the person you spoke with, along with the reason for the call.
• Update Your Contact List. Your contact list should include the names, addresses and phone numbers of your health care providers, along with emergency contact information of a friend, family member or caregiver. Also include the name, policy number, address, and telephone number of your health insurance company.
Organizing your medical information can seem overwhelming at first glance. But once you achieve a system of organization that works for you, you’ll find that having all the documents you need to be organized in one place will bring you peace of mind and help you stay on top of all your health care needs. It can also help make it easier to review and consider changes to your Medicare coverage during Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), which takes place each year from October 15 through December 7.