Photo of patient writing a list when meeting with her doctor

Am I really putting myself at risk if I don’t do the recommended to-dos?
If you don’t do those “to-dos,” you may or may not experience health and safety problems. But doing those “to-dos” reduces your risk of serious health problems, so it’s best to err on the side of protecting yourself.

How can information gaps put my safety at risk?
Any health care team’s decisions are only as good as the information that goes into them. Even the most skilled health care professionals are not mind readers. To make the most effective and safe diagnoses and treatment decisions possible, they are dependent on current and complete information. Information gaps can reduce their effectiveness. And you don’t need to keep track of all of your health care information. A few key items are all you need to gather and remember to reduce the chance of potentially life threatening problems.

Who developed this to-do list?
The Minnesota Alliance for Patient Safety (MAPS) created these to-dos based on the best available research.

What if I know that my care team already has all of this information in their system?
First, you never know when you might see someone outside of your primary health care system who doesn’t have access to your records. For instance, you may unexpectedly find yourself in an ambulance, emergency room, urgent care clinic, nursing home, pharmacy or exam room that is not associated with your primary health care system, including when you are away from home. Second, your team may have less information in their system than you believe they do. Finally, even for members of your health team who operate inside your primary health care system, reminders are helpful. Reminders increase the likelihood that busy members of your health care team are making fully informed decisions that result in the best possible care.

Is my health care team sharing this information with each other?
In many cases they are, but in some cases they may not. When information sharing isn’t happening, your health and safety are at risk. You are in the best position to reduce that risk by taking a few key steps to share your complete health care story with your entire health care team.

My health care provider says they don’t need all of those lists and test results.
A few may say they don’t need all of your information, but that’s unusual. The majority of providers do want to see all of your relevant health care information, especially relating to your medications, recent test results and treatments. They are dependent on your involvement to make sure that happens.

Will I need help to do this work?
If these to-dos are given the high priority they deserve, they are very feasible for most people. But if you need help from a loved one to do these tasks, please get help. This is lifesaving work, so it should be a top priority for you and those supporting you.

Should I keep paper or electronic versions of these materials?
Do whatever works best for you. The most important thing is that the information is gathered and shared. IF you do prefer to coordinate health care information electronically, the smart phone app referenced on the home page of this website may be useful to you.

Do I have to actually write everything down?
If you have a perfect photographic memory, maybe not! But if you are like most of us and have flawed memories, writing things down will keep you safer. Also, it is easier and more reliable to hand a list to others on your health care team than it is to continually list everything from memory.

I don’t always remember everything they say to me at health care appointments, so how can I keep track of it all?
Most of us struggle to remember all of the important topics that come up at appointments. Here are a few things you can do to increase the likelihood that you retain important information: 1) Take careful notes; 2) Bring a family member or friend for another set of ears; and 3) Ask your caregiver if they have handouts about the topic being discussed, so that you can study the handout at home.

How do I obtain copies of my test results?
Simply ask for that information from staff at the location where the test was done. Medical professionals are accustomed to responding to such requests.

What if they want to charge a fee for mailing the test results?
If a health care provider won’t mail or email test results to you for free, paying for shipping charges to help maintain your health and safety is well worth it.

What if a health care provider refuses to give me my health care information?
This is rare. If it happens, politely ask your primary care physician to help you. You need that information to keep yourself healthy and safe.

What if a health care provider says they sent test results to my doctor, and I therefore don’t need to see them?
Thank them for sharing the results with your doctor, but politely explain that you need a copy of the test results for your own file, so that you can share the results with other members of your health care team and family in the future.

How far back should my record-gathering go?
There is no definitive answer about how many years your record-keeping should cover. If you have had treatment for a recent medical problem or a stay in a hospital or nursing home, start by collecting the information related to that event. When you get a chance, collect a few years worth of information, and then ask your medical team if they need more.

Should I only list prescription medications on my medications list?
List all health-related substances you are taking, including prescription medications, over-the-counter medicines, nutritional supplements and alternative therapies. All of these substances can interact with each other in ways that can impact your health and safety, so your entire health care team needs to know about all of them.

What kinds of actions should I take if I experience the warning signs my doctor warned me about?
The specific steps you take will depend on how at-risk you feel, and how confident you are that you understand your caregivers’ instructions. Here are some tips for deciding how to address your warning signs, but the most important thing to know is that you should dial 9-1-1 if you feel in immediate danger.

What if I report a problem associated with my warning signs to my care providers, but I feel they aren’t addressing my needs?
Nobody can ever know how you feel better than you, so trust yourself. If you feel you need help, directly ask for help. For instance, if you feel you need to be evaluated in person, say that clearly and directly: “I don’t feel right, that concerns me, and I need to be seen.” And again, if you ever feel in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.

In the “to-do” list, it says I should follow up on recommended “next steps.” What exactly does that mean?
This refers to all recommendations from your health care team, such as additional appointments, treatments and medications. Examples of such recommended next steps are listed here.

Why should I gather medical documents when the information in them is so technical that I can’t understand some of it?
While most of us don’t understand all of the highly technical information in those documents, other members of your health care team will understand the information and can use it to keep you safer and healthier.

Who is the Minnesota Alliance for Patient Safety (MAPS)?
The Minnesota Alliance for Patient Safety is a coalition of health care professionals and organizations who are dedicated to using evidence-based practices for improving patient safety in Minnesota. They are the sponsors of this website and the associated public education campaign. For more information visit: