Mary Kay Doyle is convinced that having her son’s medical records on hand has helped her new doctors treat him better.

Doyle, who lives in Frankfurt, keeps a list of his son’s surgeries and medications handy, so doctors have immediate information on his son Tommy, 27, who has VATER syndrome, which involves multiple deformities related congenital.

“Having your medical records available when visiting a new doctor can be very helpful. It takes all the guesswork out of it, ”Doyle says.

Although Tommy’s case is complex, it can be beneficial for most people to create a list of medical records, including family medical history, to help doctors, says Beth Myers, private health concierge, IA. , CEO of 2 × 2 Health in Chicago.

While a large portion of medical information is stored on a doctor’s or hospital’s online portal, not all doctors can access all of a patient’s records, and not all of the necessary information is available. stored on these portals.

“Unfortunately, the medical health record keeping system is not as important as the banking system,” Myers says. “Maybe you can see your records at Rush or Northwestern, but if you’re in Arizona and in a car accident, they might not be able to get all of your medical records. Someone must have this story.

It may be helpful to have a list of medical conditions, medications, and family history recorded in an accessible location, such as in a file or on a cell phone, for use in an emergency or when consulting with. a new doctor.

Knowing a person’s family medical history can help guide treatment. Brent Nathan, MD, a general practitioner with Côte-Nord Medical Associates in Bannockburn, recalls a new patient who presented with a family medical history including cases of cancer and the use of medication.

“It guided us in terms of preventive care and cancer screening strategies,” Nathan says.

Myers and Nathan suggest that patients keep the following information readily available when visiting new doctors:

Family medical history

“Doctors are interested in your family history – what your parents died of, at what age they died – as well as information about their parents and siblings,” Myers explains.

“It can take a doctor down a different path. For example, if someone has [uterine] bleeding problems, it will help the doctor to know that you have three family members who have irregular periods and one who has had a hysterectomy.

Myers says she has a large and close family. She made a family tree of their medical conditions, including information such as if anyone had a congenital heart defect. It’s easy to forget this information if it’s not written down, she says, recalling a recent incident with her mother.

“My mother was a nurse. I went with her the other day to the doctor, and he asked me if she had children with high blood pressure. She said a. I reminded Mom that she had two kids with high blood pressure, ”Myers says.

Myers and Nathan suggest asking family members questions to compile the family’s medical history tree.

“It can be an embarrassing and unpleasant family conversation, but you can get a lot of valuable information,” Nathan says. Although uncomfortable, these conversations can benefit the whole family. “If someone doesn’t keep track, it’s lost for future generations,” Nathan says.

The more complete you can be, the better, but at a minimum Nathan suggests gathering the medical histories of parents, siblings, children, and grandparents.

Surgeries, laboratory tests

Nathan says people often don’t remember what surgeries they had or when, nor do they know the results of lab tests.

“But it’s important,” he said. “It gives us context by knowing the results and the schedule. “

Doyle says she had several cancer surgeries around 15 years ago, but can’t remember the dates straight away. “But if I wrote it. I have the information, ”she said.

Nathan adds that having a chart of lab test results, such as cholesterol levels, can give a new doctor good clues about a patient’s health.

Medication, list of allergies

Myers suggests keeping a list of medications, including dosage amounts, dosage changes, and reasons for the changes, such as allergic reactions.

“When you see a new doctor, they take charge of the care. They need to understand what you are taking, the dosage and why, ”Nathan says. “Then we can get an idea of ​​the severity of an illness. We can get an idea of ​​what has and has not worked in the past, and we can start thinking about the next steps if the drug stops working.

When Doyle took her son to the Mayo Clinic, she brought her full list of medications and dosages – past and present. It helped her healthcare team determine which medications worked, which didn’t, and new ones to try, she says. Doyle also maintains a list of pharmacies that she and her family use, including phone numbers and locations.

Store, share information

It is helpful to keep a list of medications and allergies in your wallet or purse. “In an emergency, it can save lives,” Nathan says.

It’s important to keep all information in one place for easy retrieval, Myers says.

She suggests putting written records – such as a list of surgeries, family medical history, lab test results, and medications – in separate files stored together or in a clearly labeled filing cabinet.

Some people save the information on their computer or cell phone. In this case, Myers recommends that people instruct a family member how to access information if necessary.

“My dad puts medication lists on his phone, but I don’t know how to access his phone. Whoever is your proxy should have all of this information, ”Myers says.

Doyle says peace of mind comes from knowing his son’s information and where it is kept. “Once all of that is in place, it’s your lifeline for all of your medical appointments. “

Knowing your family medical history and your personal medical history provides peace of mind as well as continuity of care.


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