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Create a Personal Medical History

Your doctors keep records, you need to as well

Other useful info to include

  • The addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of your pharmacist and doctors
  • The illnesses that have occurred in your family, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and mental health conditions
  • The name and phone number of an emergency contact or caregiver
  • The name, policy number, address and telephone number of your health insurance company
  • Whether or not you have an advance directive or living will, and where it is
  • Any organ donor authorizations you've made
  • Important opinions and correspondence from specialists and providers
  • Your vision and dental records
  • Any permission forms for release of information, operations and other medical procedures
  • A history of any counseling you've received
  • Notes about your lifestyle habits: smoking, drinking, sleep, exercise, eating (how much, how often)

Keep a health journal
If you want to maintain a more thorough health history, you can try journaling. For instance, you can keep a diary to record your emotions, when you have allergic reactions, or your eating, exercising or sleeping habits. You can write down questions for your doctor and keep track of how you were feeling or what was going on in your life at given times. Such journals can help you spot trends and take a broader look at your health. For example, a journal might help you realize if you’ve become depressed, that you’ve stop exercising or have developed a new physical health problem.

Where to write it down
It doesn’t really matter where you keep your information so long as your record is readily accessible, portable and secure. You can add your information to a spiral or loose-leaf notebook, or a chart or spreadsheet. You can enter your information into a document stored on your computer or a USB flash drive, which can be plugged into any computer with a USB port.

Additionally, many companies and organizations offer websites where you can enter and store your health information. (See the box above.) Some sites are free; others charge a fee or subscription. If you do use an online service, carefully read the privacy policy to confirm that the only people with access to your information are those to whom you’ve specifically granted permission. If the privacy policy is hard to find on the site or difficult to understand, store your information elsewhere. Also, before entering any personal health information into a website, be sure you can permanently remove all of your data at any time and for any reason.

If you’re new to recording your health history, start with the basics and build from there. It’s never too late to start. The next time you’re desperately trying to remember when you had your last physical, you’ll be glad you wrote down the date.

You may also like: Asking questions about your diagnosis.

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