Tips for Managing the Never Ending Mountain of Medical Paperwork & Files

Organizing Medical Records & Paperwork

Managing medical bills, keeping track of doctor visits, filing insurance claims, and organizing medical records can all leave you feeling overwhelmed. Here are a few tips that can make managing TMJ disorder, or any chronic illness easier – and might stop you from pulling out your hair!

Records that are important to keep:

  • Medical Bills
  • Records of phone calls, emails and letters from doctors and insurers
  • Insurance claims forms including claims filed, reimbursements, and explanations of benefits.
  • Records of hospital stays, treatments, procedures, exams, lab tests, drugs prescribed and prescriptions filled.

Doctor Visits & Hospital Stays – What to Keep Track Of

Keep a log that includes:
1. Medical appointments
2. Prescriptions filled
3. Lab work
4. Procedures

Whether you have insurance or not, this is an important thing to do. Keeping logs of appointments, prescriptions, procedures (and their costs) will help you when the bill comes around. Hospitals are notorious for including charges for things you didn’t even use. If you’re in the hospital, don’t rely on your memory to record the medications, tests, and procedures you have. If you can, assign a family member or friend to be your advocate…they can record everything for you so that it’s much easier to ask questions (and to talk with the insurance company if you have a dispute).

Organizing doctor visits

  • Obtain a copy of your medical records
  • Create a health information journal which includes:

1. Relevant information about surgeries, procedures, allergies, hospitalizations, medications you are on, and family history of diseases or conditions. Be sure to include dates.
2. Basic information including height, weight, blood pressure, any routine blood work results

Keeping a TMJ diary
As you know, the status of your TMJ disorder can change on a daily basis.  It is important to keep a diary that will give you insight into possible triggers that may result in a flare-up. It will also help your doctor in determining your course of treatment.

You will need to track:

  • Pain level
  • Medications taken
  • Any new symptoms, or a change in symptoms
  • What you did during the day
  • Concerns
  • Questions to ask your doctor

Setting up your organizational system

  • Keep a basket or file on your desk and put everything medically related into it. Every week or month, file your paperwork in the appropriate place.
  • A 3 ring binder can be used for medical records. Use tabs for each category (prescriptions, TMJ diary, notes from prior office visits, insurance, copies of scans and test results). The first information your doctor sees in each category should be the most relevant.
  • Consider making multiple copies of any records so that you can hand them to your doctor without him or her having to make copies (and this way, you lessen the likelihood that your doctor will forget – or misplace – your records).
  • Create files for any information that you don’t need to carry with you, such as insurance paperwork that pertains to explanation of benefits or records of conversations with your insurer.

Create a System That Works for You – and Stick To It!

Once you have a system that works for you, make sure you are consistently using it. Set a date with yourself on your calendar to spend half an hour organizing your medical records once a week (or month if you are not actively seeking treatment at the moment). After you’re done, reward yourself! Great time for some ice cream ;)

Information can also be backed up on a flash drive and carried with you, but check with your doctor to be sure his office will be able to use information in that format. Some offices haven’t changed to digital records yet.

In the end, staying organized will not only help you better manage your health but will also help your doctor more effectively help you. Since your relationships with your doctor is a partnership, it’s important to show him or her that you are committed to taking care of your health and doing whatever it takes to feel better. In turn, they will be more able to help you.

How do you manage the piles of paperwork that come with having TMJ disorder?  We would be grateful for any tips you could share with us and your fellow patients!

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