Don't wait until there's a medical emergency to scramble to collect your history. Here's how to organize medical records for yourself and your family.

By Melanie Mannarino
Updated December 02, 2019
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Yes, you fill out those medical history forms at doctor’s appointments, and the doctor should have a record of tests ordered and results. But say you go to a specialist not in the same health care system as your main provider. Or a walk-in clinic.

They probably don’t have immediate access to your records. Not to mention doctors are slammed for time. “You need to be the one with an accurate, up-to-date picture of your health,” says Lynne Thomas Gordon, CEO of the American Health Information Management Association. That means having all records in one accessible place so you can help the doctor help you at each appointment.

Medicines organized in clear drawers.

First, ask for copies of your health information; under the HIPAA rule, most doctors, hospitals, and labs must give you the records within 30 days. Specify that you want test results, notes from doctors’ exams, and discharge summaries. If you’re part of an online patient portal through your doctor, some of this info will be there, but may be limited. Once you have everything, read it to make sure there are no errors or surprises. Next, create a three-ring binder for every family member, or consider the Your Family Health Organizer, $47.60 on Amazon, by Jodie Pappas or the Personal Medical Journal, $21.05 on Amazon, by Gloria Ann Lopez-Cordle with template pages to fill in.

Important Medical Information to Have on Hand

It’s a no-brainer to carry your insurance card at all times, but in case of an emergency, you should have the following info typed on a card tucked into a wallet or tote, which is the first place EMTs will search: a list of allergies, medical conditions (asthma or diabetes, for example), surgeries, blood type, any medications (supplements count), and primary care doctor contact information. For children, add immunization history (including tetanus), height, and weight. Senior citizens also need to indicate how to access their most recent electrocardiogram (so doctors know baseline function).

How to Digitize Medical Records

Prefer to store your medical records on your phone, tablet, or computer? These apps effectively and easily file medical info and share it with doctors. Plus, most are free!


It stores your medical info, and the Carry Card feature consolidates it on a wallet-friendly medical alert card.


Your fitness tracker offers valuable data about your health and habits. This website (or app) syncs to health trackers. Microsoft users can connect with a log-in and password.


Scan your medical info, then store it in these virtual notebooks. They're also useful for work and home projects!

My Medical

Are you in charge of organizing health records for everyone in the family? This app can store records for multiple people and lets you share info electronically with doctors.

Microfiber Cloth

The Casabella i-Clean Microfiber Cloth ($5 for two, The Container Store) is washable, reusable, and folds into its own pocket. Tuck one into your purse to erase smudges and fingerprints from screens on the go.

Dual-Purpose Cleaner and Polisher

Clean your screens with two simple swipes using the HANS Swipe ($15). One end features a cleaning solution, the other polishes with a microfiber cloth. It's also small enough to keep in your desk drawer.

Portable Sanitizer and Charger

PhoneSoap Go ($99.95) kills bacteria with UVC light. Another bonus: It has a rechargeable battery to sanitize and charge your phone on the go (perfect for travel!).

Maintaining current, organized health records is important for everyone in the family, especially in the event of an emergency. With these practical, expert-backed tips and apps, keeping them orderly is easier than ever.


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