And lastly, make this behavior a habit. Be sure to get the results of every test and procedure as they occur in the future by giving your doctor a self-addressed stamped envelope at each office visit when a test is ordered. This will help remind your doctor of your wish to keep your own copies of records as well.
But what if you don't get your records in spite of the pleasant tone of your letter? I recommend that you wait three weeks, and then make a follow-up phone call.
If the office staff tells you that it's not the doctor's policy to send patients copies of their records, don't allow yourself to be intimidated. Be polite and persistent. Remind them the information may be critical to future doctors involved in your care, and that you are entitled by law to this information.
There is strength in numbers, and if we all start to ask for what is important to receiving the best possible health care in the future, giving patients copies of their records will become commonplace.
Store all your records in a file folder or three-ring binder. Consider adding divider tabs to separate blood tests, x-ray reports and doctor consultation reports and hospital discharge summaries. For a complete set of helpful forms to include in your medical records, go to www.DrSavard.com and click on Learn how to take charge of your health.
Put your records in an easy-to-locate place such as your kitchen counter or shelf where family or emergency personnel could easily find them. Keeping them handy will also help remind you to take them with you to every doctor appointment, emergency room visit or hospital stay. Showing everyone your vital health information could help your practitioners avoid making mistakes, duplicating unnecessary and costly tests, and not having the information they need to make the most accurate and timely diagnosis.
Have you tried to collect your medical records? I would love to hear your experience. As always, I welcome your questions and comments.
Dr. Marie Savard is an ABC News medical contributor. To learn more about Savard's health management system, download free forms and a sample letter to your doctor, visit http://www.drsavard.com and click on "Learn how to take charge of YOUR health."