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Keep Good Records for Health and Finances

January 2012

Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®
Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management
Rutgers Cooperative Extension

Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ (SSHW) program encourages participants to make positive behavior changes to simultaneously improve their health and personal finances. SSHW educational programs and research focus on similarities and relationships between both aspects of life. One of these similarities is the need to keep good records about your health and financial status. After all, nobody has more of a vested interest in recording this data than you do.

If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to “get my paperwork organized,” this article couldn’t come at a better “teachable moment.” Let’s start with your health records. Health care is a shared responsibility between a patient and a health care provider. An important part of being a wise health care consumer is maintaining accurate records about yourself and members of your family and compiling a family medical history for use by your doctor. It is estimated that only 30% of Americans have ever compiled a family medical history despite its usefulness in preventing disease and staying healthy.

A Personal Health Care Journal is a helpful tool. The purpose of this document is to consolidate pieces your medical history in one place. Keep it current by requesting the results of lab tests and screening tests whenever you visit a doctor. Write down your height, weight, and blood pressure every time they are measured.

Start your medical history by reviewing health records in your possession and those requested from medical providers. Items to include are: results of recent physical exams (e.g., blood pressure and cholesterol), a prescription drug record (medication name and dosage), an allergies list (including allergies to prescriptions), an immunization record, lab and X-ray reports, and a “problems list” (e.g., previous illnesses or surgeries). For additional data about your health, contact the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) at to request your report if they have one.