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The Importance of Your Medical History

Medical records

Print the whole article here!

What is your medical history?

Your medical history tells the story of your health!

Your medical history includes:

  • The health conditions that you have or had in the past
  • The medicines that you take now or, used to take
  • Any allergies that you have
  • Names and phone numbers of your doctors
  • Any other important information about your health

Your medical history can help you get the care you need!

Your medical history gives medical and support professionals the information they need to give you the best care possible.

You may have many doctors and support persons.

  • Each of them needs to know the details of your health in order to treat you properly.
  • As a summary of your health story, your medical history can make it easier for others to help you.

You can make your own medical history record by writing down important facts.

You can use this worksheet to make your medical history record!

  • Keep this sheet with your other important papers.
  • Make copies to give to your supports.

You can have your medical history record with you at all times.

  • Write it on a card and keep it in your wallet.
  • Wear a bracelet with serious medical conditions, such as severe allergies, written on it.

As an example, let’s talk about Kwan’s medical history.

This example shows the different parts of a medical history record, and shows how knowing your medical history can help your doctors give you the best care possible.

Kwan has been coughing recently, and sometimes has shortness of breath.

  • Kwan’s doctor can use Kwan’s medical history record to decide what is wrong, and help her to feel better!

Kwan’s medical history record lists both her past and present health conditions.

Past health conditions may affect your current and future health.

  • Doctors learn from your past conditions and how they were treated.

Kwan has a history of infections, like colds and flu, and was diagnosed with a sinus infection earlier this year.

  • These conditions may be related to Kwan’s current coughing and shortness of breath.

Kwan’s medical history record also includes her family medical history.

You are more likely to get health conditions that your family members also have.

  • Doctors can learn about your possible health risks from the health of your family members.

For example, Kwan may be at risk for asthma.

  • Her father and sister have been diagnosed with asthma.

Kwan’s medical history record helps her doctor choose the right care.

Kwan’s doctor decides she has asthma, with help from her medical history record.

  • Symptoms of asthma include coughing and shortness of breath
  • Infections (such as colds) can make asthma symptoms worse
  • Kwan has family members who have asthma

The doctor can now help Kwan treat her asthma!

As another example, let’s talk about Miguel’s emergency.

Miguel faints while eating fried chicken at a restaurant.

  • He is having a hard time breathing and his heart is beating very fast.
  • His supports call 9-1-1.

When the paramedics arrive, Miguel’s supports give them a small card he carries that lists his medical history.

The paramedics can use information from Miguel’s medical history card to treat him quickly – let’s see how!

Miguel’s medical history lists his current and past medications.

Some medications are harmful when taken together.

  • Doctors can decide what medications are right for you by reading about your medical history.

Miguel’s current medications include:

  • Medicine for seizures, taken four times a day, with food
  • Medicine for high blood pressure, taken every morning

Miguel’s medical history lists his allergies.

Your doctors and support providers must be aware of everything you are allergic to, so that they can help you to avoid these things.

Miguel’s card lists his allergies.

  • Miguel has severe allergies to pollen, cats, and peanuts.
  • Miguel is also allergic to some medicines, so his doctor knows not to prescribe them.

How does Miguel’s medical history help the emergency staff to treat him?

The paramedics determine that Miguel is having a dangerous allergic reaction (called anaphylactic shock).

  • Symptoms of anaphylactic shock include difficultly breathing and very fast heart rate
  • Miguel has a severe allergy to peanuts – restaurants can use peanut oil when preparing fried foods like fried chicken.

Next, the paramedics must quickly decide how to treat Miguel.

Before giving him any medications, they look at his medical history to see what medications he is already taking and which medications he is allergic to.

The paramedics see that it will be safe to give Miguel an injection of epinephrine.

  • This medicine quickly helps Miguel to breathe more easily.

The paramedics then take Miguel to the hospital to be sure that he is okay.

Miguel’s story shows us that medical histories are important in emergencies.

If you are hurt or very sick, you may not be able to talk to paramedics to let them know about your medical history.

  • Without this information, paramedics and emergency room doctors may not know the correct way to treat you!
  • By keeping your medical history record nearby, emergency personnel will be able to learn about your medical history and treat you in the best way.

Your medical history record should always have emergency contact information.

Your medical history record should list the names and phone numbers for these people:

  • Your family members or other close contacts
  • Your support provider
  • You current doctors and dentist
  • Your regional center service coordinator

These are the people that emergency personnel should call if you are hurt or sick and in the emergency room.

It is important to share your medical history with your support providers and doctors!

Remember, you may not always be able to tell your medical history to health professionals in the case of an emergency.

  • By sharing your history with your supports, they can tell important health information to others when you can’t.
  • If your supports or doctors change, make sure they know about your medical history right away.

You and your supports can check out these resources to learn more!

  • AARP: Create a Personal Medical History
  • MedlinePlus: Personal Medical Records
  • My Family Health Portrait - This website helps you create a report of your family health history.
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FPMedicalHistory.pdf 707.52 KB
Last updated on Fri, 06/11/2010 - 17:32