Managing your medical records
The topic of managing your medical records has come up at several conferences I have attended. It is not something we are very familiar with here in Ireland, or at least not to the best of my knowledge – in fact the first time I encountered this idea of managing your own records was at a conference in the US.
As cancer patients, or former patients, we see a variety of doctors and medical professionals, ranging from the family doctor, breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, oncologist, radiation oncologist, etc. We may also attend different units and hospitals for treatment. Having our medical charts spread out among different doctors and hospitals in this way means that often it is up to us to recount our medical history to date, so wouldn’t having our own records with be very useful?
We may also want to visit other professionals – physiotherapists, nutritionists, complementary therapists, and keeping our own records allows us to share more accurate information with them. So keeping your own complete, updated medical records is a great way to help you play an active, informed role in your care.
So what should you include? Well, here are some ideas for what you could include:
- Personal Information – name, birth date,contact addresses.
- List of Personal Contacts – details of next of kin, family and friends who may be contacted on your behalf.
- Family Medical History – cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions,
- Your Past Medical History – alongside your cancer history (pathology reports, scans, etc.) list other operations and relevant information
If you haven’t been given one, ask your oncology team for a treatment summary, which includes all relevant information, at the end of your treatment. However, if you are having or have had multiple treatments, you may not receive a summary. In this case, you should include any chemotherapy, and/or radiotherapy you have had. Also, list any significant side effects you experienced during or after therapy.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a starting point. You decide what works best for you. Work with your healthcare team to select what records you specifically need and how to obtain them. So if you haven’t already done so, start collecting your personal medical records now. Knowing your health history allows you to be an active partner in your care so you and your doctors can decide on the best plan for treatment and long-term health for YOU.
(Breast Cancer.org have an excellent guide on how to collect, store and manage your medical records. You can access the guide by clicking here.)