Dr. Mor's Column - April
ADVOCATING FOR YOURSELF ON HEALTH ISSUES
By Eva Mor, PhD Author of Making the Golden Years Golden

As we age and more health conditions afflict us, there are more specialists that we see and more documents that represent our medical history unfortunately, in most cases, all this documentation is dispersed among many doctors. If you have had any hospitalizations or emergency room visits, your records are in the hospital. If you have a condition that requires the care of a specialist, he or she will have your records. If you require multiple specialists, each one will have records related to the treatment they provide.

In the best of cases, the doctors are in communication with each other, and each is aware of how the others are handling your case, especially concerning the medication they individually prescribe for you, so that there is no contraindication. However with all the medical care that the average patient receives, through specialists, and sub-]specialists, there is much room for errors, misdiagnoses, and possible unnecessary treatments. This leaves the responsibility up to you to gather all your medical records, be educated about your illnesses, and read up on the medications you are taking, including their side effects. It is after all, your life that is in those records.

You should ask your doctors for copies of all reports and tests, and copies of letters the doctors send to one another pertaining to you. To the doctor, as much as he or she may like you personally, you are one of many and it is hard for the doctor to keep track of every detail. That is where the records come in. Your doctor has a set, and you should have one too.

Today most records can be kept in electronic form, but systems are different, so most doctors keep a paper file of their patientís records. The best way to keep your records is in chronological order, with the most current documents on top; but there are other methods which you may want to check out at www.myphr.com . Among your medical records should also be a printout from your pharmacy of a current list of all medications that you are taking.

You should also keep a list of all the doctors that you are using for your health care. Write a short description of each doctorís specialty, making it clear to someone else if they read the file. Also list each doctorís name and telephone number, so it is available in an emergency.

It is also advisable to have a personal file which will include your personal data, such as[name, address, phone number, Social Security number, and insurance company name and identification number. Include in this file any allergies that you may have. You may want to include a copy of your Health Proxy or Living Will, or any instructions you have to your doctors. Let a family member or a friend know where you keep the medical file in case it is needed and you are not in a condition to direct them to it.