5 Tips for Organizing Your Medical Files

Woman paying bills

Handling medical paperwork can be exhausting, but having a system in place can help you feel in control.

Organizing can be onerous, but the payoffs are powerful. Less clutter around the house can mean less time spent tracking down missing items, giving you more time to do the things you actually want to do.

Two experts who are well-versed in the paperwork that comes with cancer care offer their best tips on staying on top of it all.

1. Know your style.

Do you tend to hold on to papers after you’ve reconciled them or are you more likely to purge them? There is no right answer, but having a system in place that matches your organizational style will keep you on track, says Eliza Weber, a member of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Patient and Family Advisory Council for Quality. That could mean storing everything in a binder or shredding items as soon as you’ve read them. Papers you may want to keep indefinitely for easy reference include pathology reports, scan results, clinical trial paperwork, and information on side effects.

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2. Group like with like.

If you have a big pile of papers staring at you, start by categorizing what’s in it. “Put all the things that look alike in one pile, and then go through those,” says Laverne Gibbons, a 23-year MSK veteran who is currently a supervisor in the Patient Billing Services Department. Make one pile for instructions from your doctor, one pile for explanations of benefits (EOBs), one pile for submitted claims, and so on. Then start matching. “I always keep a bill and match it to the EOB that comes up against it,” says Ms. Weber.

3. Put it away.

Once an item is resolved, file it somewhere you won’t see it every day. Ms. Gibbons advises against throwing out financial documents in case you need to reference them later. But having less clutter on display can help you feel more in control of your surroundings.

4. Go digital.

You can check both your medical results and financial information on MSK’s online patient portal, MyMSK. The portal also makes it easy for you to keep tabs on your health. “What’s great about the portal is that I can go in and see a graph of blood work over time,” says Ms. Weber. “In the past, it was all paper.” She adds that having the information at your fingertips helps you plan ahead. For example, you can track how many days after chemotherapy your white blood cells tend to drop, which can help you anticipate when to schedule events for work or in your personal life. Another perk: Going digital can keep your private data secure. “You’ll reduce your risk of outside people going through your information,” says Ms. Gibbons.

5. Ask for help.

MSK has a team of experts at the ready to help with any and all financial questions. The Patient Billing Inquiry Line (646-227-3378) is staffed by MSK employees Monday through Friday from to “People just want to get a person on the other end of the line,” Ms. Gibbons says. “They don’t want to get a voicemail or be transferred.” Take down the name of the person you speak with, advises Ms. Weber, so you can ask for them the next time you have a question. “Developing that relationship is very important,” she says.

MSK also offers financial literacy seminars throughout the year at various MSK sites as well as online. Attendees can pick up knowledge about bills and insurance, plus speak with an MSK expert about any specific questions they have. Call 646-628-0375 to learn more.

Ms. Gibbons understands the frustration that can come with handling the barrage of medical paperwork that accompanies cancer treatment. “A lot of times you’re not feeling well, or sometimes patients haven’t ever used their insurance in this way before,” she says. “We want to make sure we are listening to patients and doing what we can to ease their time with us.”

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