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  • Writer's pictureJonda Beattie

Organizing Medical Files

About this time of year I like to go through all my files and purge what I don’t need to make room for incoming paperwork in the new year.

One very thick file that I have not addressed in the past few years is my medical file. The older I get, the more doctors I have and the bigger this file grows.

In the past, I have just had a file folder for each doctor with their business card as the tab. But some doctors have retired and have been replaced by new doctors. Some paperwork in there is probably duplicated elsewhere. And some information I want to find quickly without searching through fat files.

I realize that my medical records should include copies of all test/lab results, diagnoses, treatment reports, radiology reports, progress notes, insurance statements and any referrals from each medical facility I’ve visited.

I did some research on organizing the medical files and most postings recommended 3 hole punching the records and keeping them in a notebook with dividers. This sounds very organized and probably a good idea if you are just starting out. I find myself rebelling at going through all those papers and punching holes and organizing them in notebooks. I also don’t see me taking care of all new paperwork following this process. So, I am going to stay with the hanging files. I am also going to skip the advice about color coding the individual files for the same reason. I do have a box file that is blue in my filing drawer that says Medical. The following files will go into this one big file folder.

As I go through and clean out my files, I will keep in mind that any documents related to insurance claims or payments should be kept up to five or seven years.

One thing I have not done that I will now do is create a table of contents. This will list all of my providers and their specialty along with a phone number. It will also note if the provider is still active.

Right behind the table of contents but in the same folder, I will list my immunizations and their dates. I have also in the past few years made a practice of having any doctor give me a copy of the medical history forms they ask you to fill out each year. I will keep copies of these in this folder and always pull this folder when going to appointments. If I have guessed the date of my last period on a form, I want to keep using that guess on future forms. The same folder will then have a list of all medications both prescribed and supplements along with the pharmacy telephone number. I will also list there any allergies I have.

Test results and notes or history will be kept in the individual doctor folders with the newest information in front. If there are any legal medical papers signed for a procedure, HIPPA papers, or any other insurance papers, I will keep them in the individual doctor folders but grouped in the back of the folder.

If there is an ongoing illness or injury, more paperwork is necessary. A file should be created for the following categories:

  1. Medical bills you receive from healthcare, labs, hospitals

  2. Insurance claims you have filed

  3. Insurance claims you have been paid

  4. Medical bills you have paid

  5. Receipts for out of pocket expenses like parking fees or non prescription drugs

  6. Test results from this illness

  7. Hospital discharge orders or documents

Then there are the EOBs or Explanation of Benefits. These define how a claim is processed, and what amount may be owed. They detail what medical procedures or treatments you have had and the specific dates. They list the codes for each treatment or item as well as a brief description of what the service entailed.

These should be kept for at least one year. Some groups say keep them for three to five years and certainly keep them until the medical claim is paid in full. For serious health conditions, keep all medical bills and EOBs on file in chronological order for at least five years after the last treatment date, or seven years if you’ve claimed the medical tax deduction.

Hold on to any questionable EOBs or those that cover chronic illnesses. Otherwise, if you are comfortable, shred these documents after one year.

All of this sounds like a lot of work and it is, but it will save you frustration down the road. Break this project down into small doable sections and conquer it one section at a time.

Jonda S. Beattie Professional Organizer

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