It’s important to keep reliable records of your MS history— keeping track of new symptoms, changes in symptoms, and the treatments you receive. Even if you think you won’t, you’ll probably forget details about your MS history, so it’s useful to have your own record.
Although it’s becoming less common with the advent of digital recordkeeping, medical records can get lost, and charts that have been closed for a long time can be destroyed. And people change doctors — even if you have no intention of doing so now, you never know if plans will change.
If you have kept your own records, you’ll be able to recreate much of your medical history if you should need to do so.
Keeping track of things on your own is important, but you also have the right to see or get a copy of your medical record if you wish to do so. Most healthcare offices are happy to provide that information, though it may take them time to get your records together – so don’t forget to call in your request beforehand.
When might you want to have a copy of medical records?
- If you are moving out of state. It can sometimes take a long time for a busy medical practice to transfer medical records, and if you are out of state, it may be more difficult for you to follow up. If you have critical records with you, this will be less of a problem.
- If you have a very complicated medical history, with several different diagnoses – for example, MS, cancer and diabetes – having organized records from the relevant physicians can really facilitate continuity of care.
- If your doctor is retiring or going out of business – once a practice is closed, it can be very difficult to obtain records.
- If your medical record is likely to become a legal evidence – for example, in a lawsuit or disputed disability claim.
Idle curiosity is probably not a good reason to request a copy of medical record. Most medical records are tedious to read, and contain information that can be hard to understand and easy to misunderstand. Most practices will charge a fee for copying your chart if the copy is for your personal use.
If you do want a copy of your medical record, what information is the most useful?
- New patient exam notes
- Hospital admission and discharge summaries
- The most recent clinical encounter sheets
- Copies of MRI reports, especially the most recent ones
- Second opinions and one-time evaluations by specialists