Tracking down medical history

Health and Fitness

July 21, 2006|By ALICIA ROCKMORE AND SARAH WELCH | ALICIA ROCKMORE AND SARAH WELCH,MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE

How many times have you shown up for a doctor's appointment and been handed a stack of multicolored double-sided forms to fill out?

You scan the information and realize that you don't remember when you had your tonsils out or the name of the medicine that caused you to break out in hives five years ago. Having complete and accurate records for everyone in your family isn't just a nice thing to have, it's essential.

The good news is that getting them in order is a straightforward organizational task.

Medical histories are a critical tool for doctors so they can identify potential issues, make diagnoses and define safe treatment plans.

The first step toward keeping accurate medical information is to capture the critical particulars for every member in your family. Basic information should include at least the following: family doctor name and contact numbers, insurance information (including a copy of your insurance card), medications taken on a regular basis (including dosage), allergies to medications or anything else, blood type, any current or recent medical conditions (e.g., diabetes, asthma) and pharmacy name and phone number. Type it up and store the information on your computer so you can print out a copy and take it to your doctor appointments or any emergency room visit.

Here are three additional areas to think about when organizing your medical information. These are intended to be a great starting point, but always check with your doctor about additional data that would be helpful to have.

The past --Mapping your family's medical history will provide medical professionals with a solid foundation for understanding your risks. At your next family gathering, take some time to learn more about your family's health history if you don't already have a clear picture. Make note of any illnesses among your grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents and siblings. For those relatives who have passed away, note what they died from and how old they were. In addition, keep track of your significant illnesses and hospitalizations. The more information you can collect in this area, the clearer the picture for doctors down the line.

The present --Keep a list of things you want to talk to your doctor about on your next visit. The subjects might be as minor as a small heartburn problem or as important as remembering to get your cholesterol checked. If you jot things down when they come to mind, you will be less likely to forget something that could be important to discuss at your next checkup. This is a great thing to do for your children as well so that when you meet with the pediatrician you can discuss big health concerns and also remember the little things such as toilet-training issues and how to stop thumb-sucking.

The future --Keep a list of screening tests that can help identify problems well in advance and make a note of when you should first have them done. These are different for each person and change as we get older. Examples include cholesterol screening, diabetes test, mammogram, colonoscopy, skin exam, eye exam, hearing test, bone density scan and EKG.

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