Keep a detailed record of your medical history and all past and current medications, vitamins, and herbs. Bring this information with you to every medical appointment. Tell them about any drug allergies you have.


Why is knowing your medical history important?

Just as a resumé helps an employer understand your suitability for a job, a personal medical history helps a clinician understand the whole picture of you as a patient. That’s especially true when you’re seeing a health care provider for the first time, or when you see multiple providers. Not only does this history help the health care providers, it gives you a truer picture of your own long-term health. Note: It’s important to keep track of surgeries and medications but be sure to also include procedures like mammograms and colonoscopies.

Why are medication lists important?

Most medical practices will ask for a copy of this list when you sign on as a new patient. It’s a good idea to keep an up-to-date list handy (maybe on the refrigerator door) for emergencies. You may even want to give copies to family members in case of an emergency. We’ve created a medication list card that can fit easily in a purse or wallet.

How do I keep track of my medical history and medication list?

  1. Choose your medium – paper, computer, mobile device (see bonus tip below), etc. If your list is electronic, make sure you back it up.
  2. Every time something happens related to your health – an illness, an accident, a new symptom, a new medication, blood work, X-rays, a stay in the hospital, etc. – add it to the list, along with the date and as much detail as you can (what happened, why did it happen, who cared for you and where, and what was the diagnosis).
  3. When listing your medications, include the name of the medicine, the dosage and frequency, copied right from the label. Also list vitamins and other nonprescription (“over-the-counter” or OTC) products you take. For example, products for indigestion, pain, or eye drops you may use regularly.

Bonus Tip: Set up the Medical ID app on your smartphone
The Medical ID feature is built into the iOS Health app on your iPhone. Android users can download the Medical ID (Free) In Case of Emergency app from the Google Play store. This can be accessed even while the phone is locked by clicking on the emergency options, and it can display things like name, date of birth (DOB), emergency contacts, medical conditions, and even blood type! The Medical ID is important because, in case of an emergency, medical responders can look at your phone and know any allergies or medical conditions you have and know who to contact for you without unlocking your phone.