Caregivers can help their loved ones — and themselves — by creating a personal health record for the person in their care.
Organizing crucial medical information can help improve care by quickly providing detailed information to doctors and family members invested in caregiving.
Adults can name a personal representative of their choosing, which would make that person their health care power of attorney and their personal representative.
There are different approaches to organizing a personal health record for a loved one, but the format isn’t nearly as important as the commitment to create one.
The following page is informational and not legal advice
As a caregiver, you may be the first person a provider will turn to for information about their patient — your loved one. It’s not uncommon for caregivers to attend doctor appointments and share details about how things have gone since the last visit. But when you can’t make it or your loved one needs to see a specialist before their primary care physician can share medical records — are your records up to date?
Putting together a personal health record now can prevent a lot of scrambling later.
A personal health record is what it sounds like: It’s a collection of medical services and history about someone. An excellent personal health record starts with basic but important information:
- A list of names and phone numbers should include doctors, pharmacies, and current contact information related to health insurance.
- A detailed list of prescriptions and known allergies is relevant, and It’s a good idea to maintain a summary of over-the-counter medications so that nothing falls through the cracks.
After organizing and compiling contacts and medications, turn your attention to care records:
- Have diagnostic history handy, from lab results to X-rays and MRIs and anything in between.
- Along with medical services, consider tracking mobile health or other self-reported monitoring. This can include a blood-pressure check or blood-sugar check daily, a particular diet or exercise tracking. These records may be useful to their provider.
You now know what pieces of information to gather for a personal health record, but caregivers also should be on the lookout for some other health-related notifications in the mail, or via email.
What does an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) show?
An EOB summarizes claims made the previous month under a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan. It contains information like what the service would have cost without insurance and how much it is expected to cost with insurance.
If you’re on a group health insurance plan at work, you’re probably familiar with Explanation of Benefits (EOB) forms. If your loved one has a Medicare Advantage plan or a Part D pharmacy plan, they also receive an EOB that should get filed as part of their health record.
While you should make medical bills a part of a personal health record, an EOB isn’t a bill but can be just as important.
What is a Medicare Summary Notice (MSN)?
A Medicare Summary Notice is the Original Medicare equivalent of an EOB if your loved one is a beneficiary. While EOBs are sent the month after services, an MSN contains the previous three months of benefits. The MSN typically arrives in the mail. If it doesn’t, ask your loved one if they signed up to have it delivered electronically.
What is the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC)
If your loved one is on Medicare Advantage, a Part D plan or both, an ANOC is a mailing that notifies them of any plan changes for the next year.
What does annual notice of change mean?
Changes to such things as monthly premiums, provider networks and drug formularies could mean that helping your loved one change to a different Medicare Advantage plan or Part D plan would be — well — advantageous.
ANOCs go out by September 30 each year to help prepare policyholders for the Annual Enrollment Period that runs October 15 through December 7. While this document belongs in a personal health record, caregivers shouldn’t file it away before figuring out what to do with it.
A GoHealth licensed insurance agent can discuss options and recommend changes to coverage.
Collecting crucial information is just a part of the process; your options for sharing the information also matters. Whether paper or digital copies, or both, each format likely will have pros and cons..
In many ways, nothing beats an old-school binder for maintaining a personal health record on behalf of a loved one.
A well-organized notebook allows a caregiver to quickly thumb through during a visit to the doctor and share requested information. The notebook can be kept in the physical possession of the loved one, and if someone else takes them to the doctor, the loved one and the notebook can be picked up at the same time.
But in that scenario, there’s the prospect of misplacing the notebook, along with having to print records for the notebook.
A digital book
Typed lists are already in digital form, and test results often are shared in a digital format. With proper organization, a digital record can be easily accessed by doctors or other family members.
A digital system might make it easy, for example, to quickly email a PDF to someone who needs to see it. On the other hand, creating that PDF for the personal health record might not be fun if you’re not tech-savvy.
A virtual book
Some medical providers offer a mobile app that stores a person’s medical information. Also, some third-party companies are creating apps or cloud storage solutions that make it easy to share digital records with others.
An app that houses most medical information can be very handy, but it might not have the option to include things like diet or exercise information or the result of tests administered at home.
Which organization method is best for a caregiver?
Whatever approach a caregiver chooses, choosing to create a personal health record for your loved one will pay dividends. If you have the time, try to use both digital and paper organization for a month. After four to six weeks, you should have an idea which option is going to meet your needs.
Do medical privacy laws impact a caregiver’s ability to create a personal health record for someone?
They certainly can, but with a little assistance from your loved one, it doesn’t have to be an obstacle. You’ve probably heard of HIPAA — the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — designed to protect medical information. It can be a barrier for caregivers but not after your granted access to the record. Most doctors have standard HIPAA forms that loved ones can fill out to allow caregivers access to their medical information.
It’s a good idea to take care of HIPAA permissions before they’re even needed so they’re in place if an urgent need arises and to protect against complications if the loved one becomes incapable of allowing access.
What if I don’t want to wait three months for a summary of Medicare claims?
If you feel you need your loved one’s latest Medicare Summary Notice sooner rather than later, they can sign up (or you can help them sign up) to receive an eMSN. An eMSN is delivered via email every month instead of every three months (it should be noted that Medicare.gov says you can get an MSN via regular mail every three months or an eMSN via email every month but not both).
How do I get a copy of my Medicare Summary Notice? You can sign up for the paperless version and learn more at Medicare.gov. 
What if I have questions about my loved one’s Annual Notice of Change?
If your loved one has a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D plan and receives an Annual Notice of Change that you don’t understand, GoHealth is here to help. You can call a GoHealth licensed insurance agent, who can offer perspective on the changes and how other Medicare Advantage plans compare in light of the changes. Then during AEP, GoHealth can help you change plans if that’s what makes the most sense for your loved one’s situation.