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Ovarian Cancer: Tips for Organizing Paperwork

How to reduce paperwork stress when managing and treating ovarian cancer.

Ovarian Cancer: Tips for Organizing Paperwork

If you’re living with ovarian cancer, you know all too well how overwhelming the piles of paperwork—from pathology reports, to imaging results, to hospital discharge notes, to insurance claims—can be. You may very well want to get more organized, but understandably, you might not know where to begin. Fortunately, setting up a simple system (that isn’t difficult to maintain) can help relieve a significant amount of paperwork stress and provide you with a more cohesive record of your ovarian cancer journey. Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Choose a method of file storage. The method you decide upon doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. It just has to work for you. For example, cardboard boxes with lids can do the trick as can plastic totes designed for paperwork storage. Or a standard filing cabinet is a good option, too. You can also choose a large 3-ring binder but keep in mind that you’ll need to 3-hole-punch each paper you receive. Office supply stores are a good place to look for storage solutions. You may also opt to go the electronic route by scanning papers and saving them to folders on your computer. Images from MRIs or ultrasounds can often be provided to you on a CD.
  • Create separate folders. You can find file folders and dividers at most office supply stores. The way in which you choose to set up your folders is up to you. You may decide to organize them by date or by paper type (all pathology reports together or all insurance claims together, for example). You may even opt to keep everything from one provider together. Whatever will make it easiest for you to file, upkeep, and find things when needed, is the most ideal option for you.
  • Commit to using the system. Once your system is up and running, it’s important that you commit to using it. This is the only way it will be effective. It’s best to file new documents quickly so you don’t lose track of them. But if your schedule doesn't always allow for that, consider placing a “To Be Filed” basket nearby and then filing those papers away as soon as you’re able. Setting up a regular time each day or week to file away documents or pay medical bills can help keep you organized and on top of the paperwork.

How to obtain the information you need
Thinking about collecting all your medical records may feel daunting. But don’t feel like you have to get all of the information right away. It’s a big job that you can work on a little at a time. A good place to start is to ask for a copy of your most recent records each time you visit your healthcare provider. After you organize those records, you can work backwards and start collecting earlier records at a pace that works for you. Going forward you can get in the habit of asking for a copy of the results or a report whenever you have a diagnostic test or procedure, or asking your doctor or nurse for a copy of anything new that’s been added to your file.

Remember, physicians and medical facilities are required by law to give you access to your medical records. The right to this information is granted to you under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Also: if collecting all of this information feels overwhelming, consider asking your family or friends for help. While you’ll need to sign off on any requests for personal medical information, they can still take on the tasks of filling out forms or making phone calls for you.

Sources:
Patient Resource. "Managing Cancer-Related Paperwork."
Cancer.Net. "3 Steps to Building a Personal Medical Record."
HHS.gov. "Individuals’ Right under HIPAA to Access their Health Information 45 CFR § 164.524."
Cancer.Net. "Clearing the Clutter: Tips for Organizing Medical Information."
Medicare.org. "How to Organize Your Medical Information in 5 Easy Steps."
Marygrace Taylor. "Here's The Exact Way To Organize All Your Health-Related Paperwork." Prevention. January 23, 2018.

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