Ever wonder why you have to fill out a new form every time you see another doctor? Can’t they just share that information with each other? Maybe one day, but for now, getting your medical information to multiple doctors is often up to you, the patient. Many people learn when they have several doctors that the burden of sharing up-to-date care information really falls on patients and caregivers. Most health care is provided by separate, independent practices without efficient methods to communicate with other providers.

You may need to make sure that records of some of your tests, procedures and hospitalizations are provided to more than one physician. This may mean getting extra copies and hand carrying them to appointments. You should always update each doctor about new medications that may have been prescribed by someone else or test results that they may not be aware of. Keeping a personal health record (PHR), either written down or electronically, may make this easier for you.

A personal health record can be as detailed or simple as you’d like but there a few elements it should definitely include:

  1. Names and phone numbers of your health care providers,
  2. Your insurance identification, policy number and phone number,
  3. Emergency contact numbers,
  4. A list of your medications (including any over-the-counter drugs or supplements),
  5. A list of any allergies you may have
  6. A list of your most recent surgeries or hospitalizations.

More Resources for Storing and Creating Your Personal Health Records

  • Wondering what a personal health record is? Medicare has an overview available.
  • from the American Academy of Family Physicians provides information on how to create a health journal as a way to document your health.
  • The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is a national not-for-profit professional organization that also provides information on how to create a personal health record.
  • The Mayo Clinic has basic information on creating a personal health record. Mayo Clinic has also partnered with familiar IT giant Microsoft on a PHR called Mayo Clinic Health Manager.
  • The Mayo Clinic also offers helpful information on gathering information for a family medical history, which may be useful as part of a PHR for yourself or to share with other family members.
  • Microsoft also has created its own PHR called HealthVault. HealthVault is a free service for managing personal health information. Users can enter prescriptions they are taking, allergy information, family and personal medical history, information about current health conditions and summaries of medical visits including any test results. These records are intended to be secure places for people to collect information that can be shared across different providers when they choose.

How Do You Get a Copy of Your Medical Records?

The Health Information Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a law that was passed in 1996 to protect patients’ health information and states that patients or their guardians are allowed access to their health records. Laws vary from state to state about how long it may take to receive your record and what it may cost to make copies. It is best to contact the facility where you received your care to learn about their policies for obtaining your medical records.

These websites offer more suggestions on getting copies and organizing your medical records:

  • A non-profit organization, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, has collected detailed information on accessing your medical record.
  • has a helpful article about how to obtain your medical record.

Resources reviewed January 2016