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Keeping a Medical History Journal for You and Your Family

Source:  Sharyn's Slant

Source: Sharyn's Slant

Why Keep a Medical History Journal?

It is important to be proactive when it comes to our personal health and the health of our family. Carefully detailing the medical history of each family member is becoming a more common trend in households everywhere.

In order for our health care professionals to properly assess us, having an accurate picture of our family medical history is critical. The initial set-up will take some effort to gather all the important information. Once you have taken the time to get all the details in order, it will be quite simple to maintain.

It is important that your family's medical history journal is always available and kept up to date.

It is important that your family's medical history journal is always available and kept up to date.

What Supplies Will You Need to Document Your Family Medical History?

There are many books and printable forms online that will help you get started. But I don’t feel that is necessary.

My suggestion is to obtain the following simple supplies:

  • Large 3-ring binder
  • Set of tab dividers for a 3-ring binder (enough for each family member you will be tracking)
  • Lined paper for a 3-ring binder

Because every family is different with the number of members, their illnesses and other circumstances, pre-printed books or forms may not meet your needs. Therefore, simply using a 3-ring binder with tabs and paper is much more practical. This way, you can also remove and add pages any time you find it necessary.

Note: Take a moment to also determine if you wish to document the medical history of other family members such as your parents or grandparents, etc. I don't mean tracking details, but major illnesses and diagnoses that may be important in the future for you or possibly your children/grandchildren. For example, you may want to document a family history of diabetes or cancer that spans generations.


What to Include In a Medical History Journal

Consider the importance of tracking the following areas of your family’s health:

  • Current physicians ~ name, phone number and address. Include dentist and eye doctor if you wish.
  • Current insurance information ~ name, phone number, address and policy number. Include a copy of your health insurance card.
  • Current medications ~ name of medication, dosage and instructions. Include over-the-counter supplements as they can have an interaction with prescribed medications.
  • Allergies ~ name of what causes the allergy and its effects.
  • Immunizations ~ list dates and immunizations/vaccines received.
  • Physicals and major appointments ~ document the date of every complete physical, major medical appointments and the results.
  • Specific tests ~ document the date and results of medical tests such as blood work, pap smear, PSA blood work, mammogram, colonoscopy, etc.
  • Hospitalizations ~ keep track of dates, reason and results for any hospitalizations.
  • Surgeries ~ keep track of surgeon’s name, dates, reason and results of any surgeries.
  • Chronic diseases and medical conditions ~ document all conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure, etc., with the date the condition was first diagnosed, symptoms, follow-up procedures, tests, changes in condition, etc.
  • Hereditary diseases ~ document any family history of major hereditary diseases that have affected children, parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles.
  • Accidents ~ document accidents such as a broken arm or a brain injury such as a concussion.

Note: It is not necessary to include minor illnesses such as colds, upset stomach, headaches, etc., unless they are chronic.


Additional Thoughts on Keeping a Medical History Journal

1. Ask For Your Medical Records

If there is medical history information that you are unsure of and wish to include in your journal, contact your doctor, hospital, etc. to obtain a copy of your records.

2. Keeping Medical History Records for Your Family on the Computer

If you choose to keep track of your family medical history electronically, be sure to also keep a hard copy on disk or in paper form.

3. Electronic Medical Records

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There are more and more healthcare initiatives that are turning to electronic record keeping where patients have immediate access to their personal records. In this case, it is still important for you continue to track its accurateness.

4. Unexpected Medical Emergencies

When you are traveling away from home, take your medical history journal with you in case you have any unexpected medical emergencies.

5. Take Your Medical History Journal to Appointments

Depending on the type of health care appointment, it may be beneficial to take the medical history journal with you. Being prepared and proactive for your medical appointments will assist your doctor and you in making sure you receive the best care possible.


The Importance of Keeping a Medical History Journal

Keeping track of the medical history for you and your family is a good idea. Take the time to maintain your journal to keep it current. It will prove to be extremely valuable for you, your family and future generations.

Wishing you the best!

This is Sharyn’s Slant


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 20, 2012:

Hey Susan ~ well I am glad that I prompted you to bring out the medical history book and get it updated :) At least you had one from years ago - that's great! Thank you so much for stopping by.


Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on August 20, 2012:

I bought a book years ago to keep all of our family medical history in and am ashamed to say that I've not kept up with it. I think tomorrow morning I'll have to go and look for it, dust it off and fill in what I can remember. Thanks for the reminder. Fantastic Hub!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 18, 2012:

Hi Susie ~ That is great! And I'm sure your kids appreciated it too. You were way ahead of the game many years ago. Great to hear! I appreciate your great feedback!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 18, 2012:

Hi Peg ~ great feedback! I feel the same way because even though many medical files are computerized, there are errors and things still get lost. I love hearing that you have spiral bound notebooks that you've kept for years. That is awesome. No doubt your mom, aunt, husband and others appreciate your effort. You sound extremely organized. The typed medication list is awesome. When my mom was alive, I remember typing a spreadsheet with all her medications, their generic names, doses and cost. I was doing a cost comparison to possibly change insurance providers. After that, she had a printed copy of the list to carry with her. Thank you so much for your great feedback.


Susan from Northern California on August 16, 2012:

Uesful hub! I started keeping our medical notebook 30 something years ago when our 3 kids were little. I had to have a way to keep up with all the allergies and other issues and a binder seemed the easiest. I continued it long after they left home because it is so much easier than trying to remember when I had my last tetanus shot! LOL!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 16, 2012:

Hi Dolores ~ It's true. You think you can remember everything once in the doctor's office but inevitably, something is forgotten. Glad to hear that you track everything in a notebook for your daughter. She's lucky to have you keeping everything organized for her. Thanks so much for stopping by.


Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on August 16, 2012:

Sharyn, This is a useful idea that will help countless people get organized with their medical histories. Even in this age of data on line we must keep track of our personal records to avoid data entry errors. My spiral bound notebooks go back for years and recap allergies, medications, surgeries and family history of illnesses for both Mom and her 92 yo sister.

Now I've expanded it to include a computerized individual list that itemizes each medication and dose that the member of the family is taking. Then I print out a sheet that is carried in that person's wallet or purse. This came in quite handy during my husband's recent hospitalization. The nurses were grateful to have a copy that they put into his records.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on August 16, 2012:

This is a great idea. You think that you can remember everything but you can't. My daughter has recently developed some health problems and is very sensitive to medications. I write everything down in a notebook so I can tell the doctor just what is going on. Voted up and tweeted.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 11, 2012:

Hi Chrissie ~ oh, that's hard when you have no idea what your medical history is on one (or both) sides of your family history. It's a good idea to start documenting things, not because of age, but so that you have the information available for you and even your kids when they get older. Thanks so much for stopping by.


chrissieklinger from Pennsylvania on August 10, 2012:

Great Ideas! I have no medical history from my biological father's side of the family and sometimes wish I did. My mother died in her 40s so I think getting started on one of these may be a good idea!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 10, 2012:

Hello Glimmer Twin Fan ~ Thank you so much for your compliments and awesome feedback. I'm glad to hear you like this idea and will be doing it soon. It will be time well spent put a medical history journal together. I appreciate you stopping by.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 10, 2012:

Hello sen.sush23 ~ You are right! I'm sure most people rarely keep a medical journal. There are so many people such as yourself that have a medical history that requires details to be remembered and recalled. Keeping a medical history journal can be extremely important in helping your physician choose the best possible care for you and your family too. Thanks for your great feedback!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 10, 2012:

Hi Kristine ~ Collecting necessary information little by little is great. This project does not have to be overwhelming. Thank you so much for your feedback and follow too.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 10, 2012:

Hi Tammy ~ I'm glad you like these suggestions. Keeping a record may help your kids, etc., in the future too. Thank you so much for stopping by.


Claudia Porter on August 10, 2012:

Your hubs continue to amaze me. Not only are they always informative, they look gorgeous! This is so useful and important. I'll be doing this soon. How many times has someone said..."Do you remember if you had.....?" Great idea. Thanks!

Sushmita from Kolkata, India on August 10, 2012:

Sharyn, this is very important documentation every individual needs to maintain, but rarely does. It is wonderful the way you have written a compact yet all encompassing hub on the subject. Being one with a genetic disorder, I know the importance of little details of history of medical conditions of family members that can lead to majorly helping the physician understand his patient. Voted up and sharing.

Kristine Manley from Atlanta, GA on August 09, 2012:

This idea has never crossed my mind, but it's a wonderful and helpful thing to do. I'll start little by little collecting the necessary information. Voted up.

Tammy from North Carolina on August 09, 2012:

I haven't thought about doing this before, but I think I will since I have some quirky health issues. Great suggestions!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 06, 2012:

Hi Rosemay ~ Absolutely. Many people cannot answer the question "does 'this' run in the family?" Having a medical history journal for the family will preserve critical information for future generations as well.

Thank you so much for your great feedback!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 06, 2012:

Hi Pamela ~ Absolutely, and if you have a complex medical history, it's really a great idea. Carrying a list with you that contains medications, allergies and diseases can be very critical for some. And I think men may be more unlikely to organize something like this, so including your husband in a "journal" is a good idea. Thank you so much for your feedback, votes, sharing and following. Very much appreciated.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 06, 2012:

Hi Ruby ~ great to see you. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I hope all is well with you!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 06, 2012:

Hi Lord ~ Good evening :) That's a great way to put it - comparing to pictures. I like that. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving such great feedback!


Rosemary Sadler from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand on August 06, 2012:

This is a superb suggestion Sharyn. You have provided us with an excellent tamplate to start a journal.

I have sometimes been asked 'Does this run in the family' and my answer has had to be 'I have no idea'

I do keep all records of test results etc but will now get them all organised as you suggest, It is a good thing to have, not only for us but for future generations

Excellent hub and voting up

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 06, 2012:

Keeping a medical journal for your family is an excellent idea and this hub definitely listed all the pertinent information. I have a very complex medical history so I carry a paper in my purse listing my medications, allergies and diseases. This comes in so handy if I have to go to a new doctor. I get copies of tests quite often also so I have them for other doctors and my records, however, my records are not as well organized as you suggest. I should do that for my husband also, as he had a stroke. This is an awesome hub and even if you are very healthy, it is good to have records for immunizations, etc. Up, useful and awesome, and shared.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on August 06, 2012:

This is a wonderful idea. Digging up records is so time consuming. Thank you for sharing..

Joseph De Cross from New York on August 06, 2012:

Morning Sharon, by reading comments from friends and your hub, we considered to leave our own; your ideas are really important. Medical journals are as important as pictures from relatives. We all get sick somehow and your tips are right on target. Hate enmergency rooms, but we all deal with it. Magnificent and important hub you wrote. Thanks for sharing!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 05, 2012:

Oh wow Maria, that is such an awesome idea! I do remember when you treated the family to a CPR session which I thought was so cool! This will be a wonderful gift. I just love how you think. Don't you feel for a minute that your mom isn't already proud of you! I love you too my dear friend!


Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on August 05, 2012:

Dear Sharon,

Thank you for giving me this year's Christmas gift from Mom and me.

I think you know I "treated" my clan to a family session of CPR, as they would just never do it independently.

Well ( thanks to Miss Sammie's notes), I think I can fashion a partially completed Medical History Journal for each sibling and adult niece and nephews... So they may proceed to complete their sections. Then us siblings can copy and share our pages with each other to insert in the binders of all.

Thank you for the comprehensive template and for sparking this most necessary idea. I know Mom is smiling at this, she always carried a list of current medications and remembered everything of medical significance. She actually put me to shame, so this is my way to make her proud.

Voted UP and UABI. Love you, Maria

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 05, 2012:

Hi tillsontitan ~ yes, knowing the health history of others in our families including those that have passed away could be very beneficial information for those in the future. Thank you so much for your feedback and voting.


Mary Craig from New York on August 05, 2012:

This is a fantastic idea and well thought out and organized. I can't tell you how many times my kids will say, "what do you have again?" or "what did Uncle Jimmy die from?" This Journal you are proposing would be great...of course I'd need four copies, one for each kid!

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 04, 2012:

Hello Dr. BJ ~ thank you for the compliment, it does really drive me crazy if I am not organized :) I appreciate you stopping by!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 04, 2012:

Hi kat11 ~ great to meet you! You are very welcome. I was thinking, writing important medical things on a calendar would help too. Thanks for your feedback,


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 04, 2012:

Hi Kelly ~ well I hope this nudged you in the right direction. I'm sure shot records are something that you really need to keep track of for the kids. I would imagine especially if the kids switched schools. Thanks so much for your feedback.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 03, 2012:

Hello theraggededge ~ I'm so glad you find this useful and practical too. Thank you so much for stopping by.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 03, 2012:

Hi Paula ~ Yes, I am pretty organized. It's one of my best assets. I would love working for someone like you, ha, what a hoot that would be. So much fun! I'm glad you are back and hopefully technical issues are behind you. I worry all the time when my laptop will "cr*p out. I will need meds at that point, ha. I appreciate your feedback, thank you so much.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 03, 2012:

Hey TT ~ Aw, thanks, I'm so glad you like this idea. This definitely could come in handy for your family. Thanks for your awesome feedback.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 03, 2012:

Hi drsohel ~ well I am glad to hear that you started a medical history file for your daughter. That is wonderful! I'm glad this hub prompted you to go back to it and keep it up to date. Thank you so much for your feedback!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 03, 2012:

Hello hopefullyhoping ~ great to meet you. I'm so glad you found this helpful. Thank you for stopping by.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 03, 2012:

Hi Debbie ~ thank you for stopping by and sharing too! Have a great weekend!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 03, 2012:

Hi Kathy ~ Well I don't know about "professional" but I'm glad you appreciated this. Thank you so much for your encouraging feedback always. I love when you stop by!


drbj and sherry from south Florida on August 02, 2012:

With your talent for methodical organization, Sharon, you are bringing your readers, including myself, out of limbo into the light of day. Thanks for these outstanding tips.

kat11 from Illinois on August 01, 2012:

Very useful. I write a journal in my handy book size calendar that I take with me everywhere. However I never some of the things you mentioned. Thanks

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on August 01, 2012:

I so wish I was better at this! Thank you so much Sharyn for writing this - I needed a nudge in the right direction. Its always nice to know you've got things on track.

Just today Maddy had a doctors appointment - ey lost her shot records. So they now have to get them from the school and so no shot today. Complete bust. And she's been stressing about it! Now we have to wait! Ugh! Wish I'd have had a copy myself!

Bev G from Wales, UK on August 01, 2012:

Very useful and practical suggestions. I should get my lazy backside in gear and do this for my family too!

Suzie from Carson City on August 01, 2012:

Sharyn....Talk about motivation and organization!! What I wouldn't give to have an Administrative Assistant like you!!?? Truthfully, you are so put together!!'s so nice to be over my technical issues and be back in the fold!! I missed everyone for nearly 2 weeks.......It was AWFUL, nearly dies from severe withdrawal!.....................UP+++

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on August 01, 2012:

This is a fantastic idea, Sharyn! I really need to start one of these for my special needs, autistic son! Seems everywhere we go, they want copies of all kinds of medical info. This would make it so much easier on everyone. Great job!!

drsohel from Dhaka, BD on August 01, 2012:

I always thought about doing such thing but couldn't do because of my busyness/laziness, I don't know. Just created a Medical History file for my baby during her birth. But after that, I haven't updated.

Sharyn, your hub has definitely brought me on foot again and showed & inspired me to take action. Actually taking action is what matters. And you've made me doing so. Thanks. Definitely voted up.

hopefullyhoping on August 01, 2012:

Very helpful!! Thanks so much for the info!

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on July 31, 2012:

wonderful ideas.. thank you Sharon.. I will share too


Kathy from Independence, Kansas on July 31, 2012:

Ok are going "all Professional" on us! What a great hub! Packed w/not only the information we shoud compile and update but, the most effective and useful ways in which to do this. How helpful, particularly in case of accident or when traveling, as you have pointed out. Between this andn the Powers of Attorney hub, you're preparing us for any and all foreseen and unforseen possibilities...wonderfully presented and so easy to follow! Saving to Favs ! UP Useful Awesome and Interesting!

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