Medical Records & Paper Trails

We have lived in our present house for over 22 years, and what was once a spacious home has had every nook and cranny filled.  My husband leans toward being a hoarder and finds it difficult to part with anything.  I can’t tell you how many holey socks or stretched out underwear that I have snuck into the trash without him knowing.  Of course everything that I have kept (hoarded) over the years is all important things.  At least it is easier to blame him for our collection of unnecessary clutter.

The process of cleaning out all our drawers and cupboards is going to take much longer than I had hoped – I sometimes move at a snail’s pace thanks to the MS, and I am also easily distracted. That is a bad combination for efficiently getting this task done and I would guess I am on target to be ready for the move in about 3 ½ years.

The worst part of this process is sorting through paperwork, of which I am a master of keeping.  I just found the bills for my husband’s open heart surgery in 2000.  Who knows what else I might find as I purge the house.  Of course I have all of my medical records for my Multiple Sclerosis - every test result, every MRI and probably every bill. I intend to sort through all these papers and shred the ones that are dispensable, such as bills that were paid decades ago, but I’m not parting with our medical records; those are part of our load I definitely don’t want to lighten and here are the main reasons why I keep them all-

You never know when you might need to produce your medical records on a moment’s notice. If you are a savvy medical consumer you have paid attention to the lessons learned over the years about lost or misplaced records. Remember Hurricane Katrina and the obliteration of millions of medical records from the flooding that can never be reconstructed? Those records are gone forever and a prime example of why it is important to have a backup set just in case.

Sometimes you need to move on to a new provider and taking your old medical records with you gives the new doctor your history in documented form.  Moving to a new doctor without having all of your records will often require you to start over from the beginning, including new and often expensive tests, rather than build on your existing medical treatment plan.

Most of us know how difficult, time consuming, and expensive it can be when we have to pay for each individual page of our records.  I have heard of these costs being upwards of $3 per page, which can add up to a large sum of money. I know from personal experience it can take several weeks or longer to get records transferred to a new provider. There are a variety of reasons why you want a set of your records, so be diligent and get a copy of all the test results, including MRI pictures, as soon as they are completed.   Included in these reasons is also the fact that medical facilities have no obligation to keep our records forever and how long they do store them varies from place to place. I recently called to ask about an MRI of a family member and was told that hospital only kept them for 3 years.

It is an odd type of trip down memory lane as I sort through all of these papers,  reminding me of so much that we have been through with our health.  Wherever our next home might be, I’ll definitely be sure to have a space for all of our medical records and I will be keeping them for much more than just the memories.

Wishing you well,


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