Cancer patients: Tips for organizing your medical records

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By Janice Marie Simon

Managing cancer and health issues seems to conjure up a great deal of paperwork, and that paperwork can stack up quite quickly.


Paperwork is a necessary evil since you need to deal with insurance companies, hospitals, tests and medications. By organizing and managing your paperwork up front, you can keep ahead of the battle and stop it from overwhelming you and your family.


Since October is Organizing Your Medical Records Month, here are a few tips for you to organize your medical papers and other health-related information.

  • Make a list. Type a list of your medications and dosages so you have it with you during doctor visits and tests. By creating your list on the computer, you can print it out before leaving your home. You can also write down a list of your medications in a spiral notebook that you take with you to your doctor visits to make notes.

  • Manage your meds. Use a paper or digital calendar to remind yourself of when to take your medications. Several apps to manage your prescriptions are available for your smartphone, but check out reviews and recommendations from others before downloading them. If you need to track any sort of side effects for your doctor, make a note on the calendar and bring the calendar with you to doctor visits if needed.

  • Go digital. Get rid of the paper by scanning all of your paperwork into your computer. You can also use a cloud-based app to store your information and pull it from the web no matter where you are. This means your information isn't stored on your hard drive and won't be lost if your computer crashes.

  • Paper filing. If you prefer keeping your paperwork in a paper format, use file folders to organize your papers. You can create a separate folder for the insurance company, prescriptions, each doctor you're seeing, lab works and medical tests or procedures. If folders are not adequate for the amount of paper you have, use file trays or boxes for each category.

  • Digital filing. Digital files are easier to manage since you can quickly sort them into digital folders. Like the paper files, you can create separate electronic folders for the insurance company, prescriptions, tests, procedures, lab work and the doctors you're seeing. Just as you can scan in your paper, you can "drop" those newly-scanned documents into your electronic folders.  

  • Managing others. If you are taking care of other family members as well as yourself, the paperwork can quickly become overwhelming. Using the strategies outlined above, make sure each family member has his or her own medication list, reminders, and paper or digital files. This helps to cut down on confusion. You can even use these tips to manage the medical paperwork for the family pets.

Watch Janice Simon discuss the importance of getting organized for your doctor's appointments:

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