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When you have more than one doctor, it's important to keep all of them to date -- especially when there are changes in your health condition or proposed changes in your drugs or treatment.

The Need For Keeping Your doctors Up To Date

If all your doctors are in a aystem that shares the same electronic health records (EHRs), they all have access to each others' notes. However, if they are not, until EHRs are available to all your doctors, one aspect of your maximizing your health care is to keep all your doctors to date if you have more than one. It's a chore, but it's your health, and possibly your life, that's at stake.

  • One doctor may notice a change that is not important to what that doctor is treating, but may be important to another doctor.
  • A doctor may also want to change your drugs or treatment in a manner that another doctor may not find acceptable.

One way to be sure there is a central file with all your medical information is at every appointment, ask the doctor to update your primary care physician. This is a very standard request. While this will hopefully result in all your medical records being in one place, it will not alert other specialists of changes which may affect their opinions and/or treatments.

We suggest the following system which we know works from experience.

A System For Keeping Your Doctor(s) Up-To-Date If They Do Not Share Electronic Health Records

Step 1. If you don't already have one, purchase a fax machine. Fax machines are very inexpensive. If you can afford one, it would be even better to purchase a machine that also serves as a scanner and printer. Last we checked, quality machines that combined fax, copying and scanning functions were available for as little as $100. 
NOTE: If you have a machine that scans documents, you can scan and email documents instead of faxing them.

Step 2. Get from each of your doctors his or her fax number. If you have access to a computer, also ask for each doctor's email address.

Step 3. Let each doctor know that:

  • You would like to keep each of your doctors up-to-date each time you see any doctor, go to an emergency room, or take any treatment.
  • You would appreciate the doctor reviewing any fax or email from you the same day it is received, or at least within 24 hours. You can assure the doctor that you will keep the communications as brief as possible, thus taking only a minute or two of the doctor's time. If the doctor doesn't agree:
    • Perhaps he or she has a better suggestion for keeping your doctors to date.
    • Consider offering to pay for the doctor's time. (If the doctor requires payment, check with your insurance carrier to see if the charge is covered.)
    • If the doctor refuses to cooperate, think about switching doctors. (See: How To Switch Doctors).

Step 4. Prepare a standard cover letter that lets each doctor know you are sending an update, asks the doctor to review the content, and to let you know if the facts suggest a change or a reason to set an appointment.

For instance:


To: Dr. ____________________________

Fax/E mail:__________________________

To: Dr. ____________________________

Fax/E mail:__________________________

To: Dr. ____________________________

Fax/E mail:__________________________

Date: ______________________________

Patient: (your name)__________________

RE: _______________________________ (suggested inserts: Visit with Dr. X, Emergency Room etc.) on (date):_____________________


Following/attached is a summary of the subject event. Please review it. Please ask a member of your staff to confirm receipt of this note and to let me know if you disagree with any proposed treatments, drugs or other steps, or if you would like to me to set an appointment to see you.

The best number at which to reach me today is (circle one) Work, Home, Mobile.

Thank you for your consideration.

(your name)

My contact information:

Telephone: Work: _________________ Home: ___________ Mobile: __________

Fax: __________________ E mail: __________________________


(these lines are for the summary)




Step 5. Before you leave each appointment, ask the doctor to summarize:

  • What the doctor observed.
  • Tests that were ordered.
  • Treatments that were recommended.
  • All proposed changes in your drug regimen (it doesn't matter whether the drugs were initially prescribed by the doctor or another doctor.)
  • Anything else that other doctors should know about.

Also ask the doctor for a copy of any test results.

Ideally the doctor will have a member of his or her staff type up the notes for you. Since that is not likely to happen in most instances, you can either record the summary and copy it later, or make notes. If it will be up to you to write the notes, ask the doctor how to spell medical and technical terms.

Step 6. Fax or email the summary to all your doctors.

Step 7. If you don't hear within 24 hours from one of the doctors you sent the update to, follow-up with the doctor's office to be sure the update was received.