Your Medical History
The information contained in the medical record allows health care providers to
determine the patient's medical history and provide informed care. The medical
record serves as the central repository for planning patient care and
documenting communication among patient and health care provider and
professionals contributing to the patient's care. The traditional medical
record for inpatient care can include admission notes, on-service notes,
progress notes (SOAP notes), preoperative notes, operative notes, postoperative
notes, procedure notes, delivery notes, postpartum notes, and discharge notes.
Personal health records combine many of the above features with portability,
thus allowing a patient to share medical records across providers and health
care systems. In addition, the individual medical record anonymised may
serve as a document to educate medical students/resident physicians, to provide
data for internal hospital auditing and quality assurance, and to provide data
for medical research and development.
A patient's individual medical record identifies the patient and contains
information regarding the patient's case history at a particular provider. The
health record as well as any electronically stored variant of the traditional
paper files contain proper identification of the patient. Further information
varies with the individual medical history of the patient.
The contents are written by medical providers, and patients until relatively
recently had no say in what was contained in it. Recent advances in health care
records privacy and access rules have generally provided for a patient's right
to review and have recorded in the medical record objections to the accuracy of
Traditionally, medical records were written on paper and maintained in folders
often divided into sections for each type of note (progress note, order, test
results), with new information added to each section chronologically. Active
records are usually housed at the clinical site, but older records are often
The advent of electronic medical records has not only changed the format of
medical records but has increased accessibility of files. The use of an
individual dossier style medical record, where records are kept on each patient
by name and illness type originated at the Mayo Clinic out of a desire to
simplify patient tracking and to allow for medical research.
Maintenance of medical records requires security measures to prevent from
unauthorized access or tampering with the records.
The medical history is a longitudinal record of what has happened to the patient
since birth. It chronicles diseases, major and minor illnesses, as well as
growth landmarks. It gives the clinician a feel for what has happened before to
a result, it may often give clues to current disease states. It includes several
subsets detailed below.
The surgical history is a chronicle of surgery performed for the patient. It may
have dates of operations, operative reports, and/or the detailed narrative of
what the surgeon did.
The obstetric history lists prior pregnancies and their outcomes. It also
includes any complications of these pregnancies.
The medical record may contain a summary of the patient's current and previous
medications as well as any medical allergies.
The family history lists the health status of immediate family members as well
as their causes of death (if known). It may also list diseases common in
the family or found only in one sex or the other. It may also include a pedigree
chart. It is a valuable asset in predicting some outcomes for the patient.
The social history is a chronicle of human interactions. It tells of the
relationships of the patient, his/her careers and trainings, schooling and
religious training. It is helpful for the physician to know what sorts of
community support the patient might expect during a major illness. It may
explain the behavior of the patient in relation to illness or loss. It may also
give clues as to the cause of an illness (e.g. occupational exposure to
Various habits which impact health, such as tobacco use, alcohol intake,
exercise, and diet are chronicled, often as part of the social history. This
section may also include more intimate details such as sexual habits and sexual
The history of vaccination is included. Any blood tests proving immunity will
also be included in this section.
For children and teenagers, charts documenting growth as it compares to other
children of the same age is included, so that health-care providers can follow
the child's growth over time. Many diseases and social stresses can affect
growth and longitudinal charting and can thus provide a clue to underlying
illness. Additionally, a child's behavior (such as timing of talking, walking,
etc.) as it compares to other children of the same age is documented within the
medical record for much the same reasons as growth.
Within the medical record, individual medical encounters are marked by discrete
summations of a patient's medical history by a physician, nurse practitioner, or
physician assistant and can take several forms. Hospital admission documentation
(i.e., when a patient requires hospitalization) or consultation by a specialist
often take an exhaustive form, detailing the entirety of prior health and health
care. Routine visits by a provider familiar to the patient, however, may take a
shorter form such as the problem-oriented medical record (POMR), which includes
a problem list of diagnoses or a "SOAP" method of documentation for each visit.
Each encounter will generally contain the aspects below:
This is the main problem (traditionally called a complaint) that has brought the
patient to see the doctor or other clinician. Information on the nature and
duration of the problem will be explored.
A detailed exploration of the symptoms the patient is experiencing that have
caused the patient to seek medical attention.
The physical examination is the recording of observations of the patient. This
includes the vital signs , muscle power and examination of the different organ
systems, especially ones that might directly be responsible for the symptoms the
patient is experiencing.
The assessment is a written summation of what are the most likely causes of the
patient's current set of symptoms. The plan documents the expected course of
action to address the symptoms (diagnosis, treatment, etc.).