I find that keeping good health records for you and your loved ones will serve you well not only in an emergency but in everyday situations, too. The time the task requires is insignificant to the benefits it offers, and once you have a simple system in place, health records are easy to maintain. Even though doctors and hospitals keep patient records, it is best to think of those as backup documentation, not only because your own records will provide a more detailed synthesis of all of your health-oriented experiences, but also because things happen: floods, fires, relocations, computer crashes, human error, to name a few.
Start by creating a hard copy file for each individual whose health you are tracking. Keep the files in an easily accessible place; you will use them more often than you might think, even when everyone is in excellent health. Having files handy will help you avoid the temptation to add a recent blood work result to a pile of bills or school papers with the vague intention of filing them later.
Depending on individual circumstances and your own need for detail, you can have sub-category files for each person in the household. Dental and vision records would be an example. Athletes might consider a separate file that documents injuries, prescribed therapies and experiences related to sports medicine. Immunizations are an easy thing to lose track of, but if you keep a document of them, you will be immensely pleased with yourself for being organized should you have the occasion to travel out of the country, and each August when the time comes to fill out children’s school records, which need updated annually.
Consider, also, printing up a record of current medications your family is taking, including vitamins and supplements. If confidentiality is an issue, put the information in a sealed envelope labeled “Current Meds” and tape it to your refrigerator. In an emergency, you can grab it for the trip to an urgent care site. In dire circumstances, where emotions run high and stress hampers clear thinking, or an ill or injured member is alone or unable to communicate, paramedics are often trained to look for such documents on the refrigerator. In fact, some hospitals and medical practices give away magnetized versions of these forms, which can be updated with a dry erase marker, at health fairs and other events. Keeping information current is a crucial component of the value of this document.
Long term, your medical records can inform future generations. Consider making a copy of your health records to pass along to your children when they grow up and leave home. This information will be invaluable to them and their healthcare practitioners for determining risk factors of inherited diseases and conditions, and may assist them in implementing preventative measures that could prolong their own good health.