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8 ways to keep your child's important documents organized

The sheer amount of paperwork … it’s mind-boggling, isn’t it? As a local pediatrician and the mom of a medically complex son, I know firsthand how many papers parents of kids with special needs deal with. The more health problems your child has, the more important it is to stay organized. But let’s face it: Keeping track of documents isn’t fun. While I can’t make it more enjoyable, I do have practical suggestions for getting (and staying) organized. Here are eight tips that will help you tackle that daunting mountain of paperwork in no time. 

1. Buy a binder
Yes, a three-ring binder like your third grader uses. I am biased toward using an actual binder to store important information because I can keep track of everything in one place and it makes it easy to find and share information with others. But you can also use your smartphone and computer as organizational tools. If you choose to use Google Docs or another digital method, remember to also keep a physical copy or a flash drive of your child’s information to share with providers.

2. Make a list and check it twice
This may be the most important part of your document organization, especially if your child takes more than one medication. Doctors love it when you hand them a list with each medicine. Include its strength, dose, how often it’s taken and the reason it’s given. Remember to list any over-the-counter medicines or herbal supplements taken, too. And include any allergies your child has and what his reaction is. This is also a good place to keep a list of immunizations.

3. Write in your notebook
A college professor once told me, “The shortest pencil is better than the longest memory.” Write everything down! It’s amazing how hard it is to keep track of details from one day to the next, or from one doctor visit to another. Be proactive and write things down as they happen. Your notebook is also a great place to jot down questions you have or tips you receive.

4. Keep a calendar
Besides keeping track of appointments, a calendar is also a good place to keep a record of symptoms or when you’ve given your child a dose of an as-needed medicine like ibuprofen. A paper calendar allows you to see all of your child’s appointments for a full week or month at one glance, while an electronic calendar allows you to set up reminders for appointments that can be shared easily with others. Find a combination that works for you.

5. Make more lists
Yes, more! Compile your child’s doctors, therapists, home health agency, suppliers and pharmacy in one location. Include names, phone and fax numbers, and addresses. Have a page for health insurance, including the insured’s name, date of birth, social security number, work address and phone number. It’s great to have complete lists of all of your child’s diagnoses or health issues (current and resolved). You might also consider including the date the diagnosis was made. List all hospitalizations and surgeries (with dates) and have copies of the latest blood and X-ray tests. If you choose to keep hard copies of your lists, create back-ups on your computer or with an online document server.

6. Store your medical expense records
It’s always a good idea to have a designated place to store all medical bills, insurance Explanation of Benefits (EOB) forms, prescription drug receipts and other similar information. 

7. Record medical expenses not covered by insurance
Keep track of receipts for out-of-pocket medical purchases, mileage (to appointments, lab tests or hospitalizations), parking garage fees and co-pays. You will want to have a detailed and accurate record to be able to deduct medical expenses from your taxes.

8. Save school information
If your child is in school, have a place to keep the information for their Individualized Education Program (IEP), latest Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) meeting or anything else that is necessary.