Keeping Your Medical Records Complete And In Tact

by Jane Ashley

Are you overwhelmed with the amount of paperwork that the diagnosis of cancer brings? Here are just a few of the examples of paperwork you might have:

Organize Medical Records

Bills for chemotherapy and radiation
• Hospital bills
• Imaging bills for CT scans, PET scans and MRIs
• Pharmacy receipts
• Receipts for physician copays
• Monthly explanation of benefits from your insurance company
• Lab results
• Scan and other imaging reports
• Pathology reports from surgeries and/or biopsies
• Genetic testing results
• Treatment summary of chemotherapy treatment and/or radiation treatment
• Discharge reports from the hospital
• CD disks of your actual scans

Do you just throw them in a box? Or do you have some sort of organization so that you can find important documents when you need them?

Why is it important to securely store your medical records?

Cancer is a serious disease, and its treatment is complex. Patients may forget important details regarding their treatment. Why do you need to maintain your records?

Medical facility closes and/or physician retires. With so many private medical practices being acquired by larger healthcare corporations, be sure to obtain older records that pertain to your cancer treatment in the event the facilities closes or your physician retires.
State laws vary. The laws in each state differ as to the minimum period that a physician or a hospital has to keep medical records.
Get lost if you move. If you’ve piled all of your medical records in a box, you might inadvertently throw them away as you’re packing to move.
Natural disasters. What if you still in treatment and forced out of your home because of a hurricane, tornado, flood or wildfire? You might be forced to relocate for quite a long time because your home or apartment was destroyed.
Late side effects from treatment. Unfortunately, the treatments that save our lives may also cause some late side effects. These late side effects include dental problems, nerve damage, heart problems, secondary cancers, lymphedema and many more. Most of us can’t even pronounce the names of some of the chemotherapy drugs we were given – much less remember them for many years.

Microsoft Health Vault Logo

Where should I store my medical records?

Some records are so important that they should be stored off-premises in a safety deposit box or use Microsoft Health Vault. Critical documents to store off-premises would be irreplaceable documents such as:

Surgery pathology report
• Biopsy pathology report
• Genetic testing report
• Staging scan
• Baseline scan after treatment
• Chemotherapy treatment plan
• Radiation treatment plan

These documents would be almost impossible to recreate and could be invaluable should your cancer recur. You may have reached your lifetime radiation dose or lifetime dose of certain platinum-based chemotherapies. A new pathology/mutation report can be compared to your old reports to check for genetic mutations.

Natural Disasters

When I was in active treatment, I set up a Microsoft HealthVault so that all of my lab results were delivered to the HealthVault. Patients can upload scanned reports and even upload a CD of images generated by a CT, PET or MRI scan. There is no cost for a personal account.
How to organize all of the paperwork that doesn’t need to be stored off-premise?

First, decide how to organize your bills, your explanation of benefits from your insurance company along with all of the miscellaneous receipts and records that you’ve accumulated. All receipts need to be kept for three years from the date that you filed your taxes.

You have several storage options.

Scan them all and store on your computer. Store a backup copy on a jump drive and keep in a secure place in the event of a computer crash. Don’t forget to shred your documents after you scan them – don’t throw them away. They contain too much personal information that could help a thief.
Use a 3-ring binder, desktop divider with folders or a file box with hanging folders . It’s worth a trip to an office supply store to find the easiest solution that suits your needs.

Although it’s a little more work, organize each provider’s documents by date, oldest to the newest. Then you can find what you need.
Consider a hanging folder filing system. You can sit in your chair while looking for what you need and you can roll it in a closet to keep it out of sight.

On one of these rainy or snowy winter days, make plans to get your medical records organized . You’ll be glad that you did. 

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