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BellaOnline's Geriatrics Editor

Your Personal Health Records

American Express says that you should never leave home without your American Express card. Well, there is something far more important than their credit card you need to keep with you at all times, a concise list of your personal health records. It is impossible to say when and if you will find yourself in a strange emergency room peering up at bright lights and a doctor you have never seen before. In such a situation, you should be able to reach into your wallet and pull out your vital health information.

When you are ill you are likely to forget important facts. Even when you are at your best, what is the likelihood that you will remember the name and dosage of every single medication you take?

All too often, I find that patients who are feeling reasonably well forget important details of their past medical history or medication list. As a matter of fact, it is not uncommon for a person to totally deny having a particular illness when I ask, only to remember the diagnosis after I review their pill bottles and tell them what their medications are for. I frequently hear something like they have borderline hypertension despite the fact that they are on 2 or 3 hypertension medications. At other times, people have denied having any type of heart disease until I review old records and tell them they were recently prescribed a heart pill, at which point I often get a response such as they did not know what that particular medicine was for.

It is absolutely vital that you sit down and write out a detailed list of all of your chronic medical problems, your medications,including the dosages, how often you take them and why you take them, the names of your doctors and their phone numbers and specialties.
Likewise, write down the names of all of your surgeries, when they were performed, and where they were performed. The name of your surgeon should also accompany this list.

While it may be difficult to understand, the fact of the matter is that over time we tend to forget a variety of things related to our prior health issues. Even 20 or 30 year olds forget these things. Believe it or not, I have had patients tell me they have never had any surgeries until I lift up their gowns to examine them and bring the huge scars to their attention. Do not laugh. It can happen to anyone, and frequently does.

Take the time to compile a list of your health conditions, surgeries, and medications and keep it in your wallet. Remember, your health records can save your life. Do not leave home without them.


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Content copyright © 2013 by A. Maria Hester, M.D.. All rights reserved.
This content was written by A. Maria Hester, M.D.. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Patricia Villani, MPA, PhD for details.

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