How long should I keep medical records and bills? And what’s the best way to organise them?

In this guide we’ll share all our top tips for staying on top of your medical filing.
How long should I keep medical records and bills? And what’s the best way to organise them?

Not sure if storing your medical records and bills is important? Have a feeling it is, but not sure how to best store and organise everything? Maybe you’ve been storing all your paperwork for literal years but have no clue if you still need your flu vaccination certificate from 2005?

We’ve got your back. Here are your top questions, answered.

When should I start keeping my medical records?

As soon as possible, really. If you haven’t yet started filing your medical paperwork, then now is the perfect time to start. When you have access to all your medical records and bills, you’ll be able to refer back to everything when it comes time to file your tax return, review your health insurance claims, or simply provide information to family members when/if needed.

How do I gain access to all my medical records? 

Whilst most doctors don’t just hand paperwork over after a visit, gaining access to your medical records should be relatively simple. The first step is to simply ask the receptionist (or the doctor) next time you pay the clinic a visit. They’re pretty used to handing paperwork over to patients, and should have all your previous records stored safely so that your doctor (or you) can always refer back to them,

If you’re in need of records from a hospital stay, you’ll likely need to chat to the person who manages hospital records. This can be a little tricky, but your GP should usually have a collection of your important records on hand – that is, if you write them down as your ‘practising GP’ when filling out hospital forms.

How should I organise my medical records?

Well, our tips differ depending on whether your records are hard-copy (physical paperwork) or soft-copy (saved on your computer or in your emails).

For hard-copy medical records

First, purchase a folder and some dividers from your local stationary store. It’s often a good idea to buy a chunky one like a lever arch file.

Then, start placing your paperwork in piles, chronologically. This makes it easier to refer back to specific test results, treatments and appointments during certain periods, if you ever need to.

For extra points, create a table of contents so you’ll be able to easily find the required records when you need them. In your table of contents, consider including the following:

  • Date
  • Description
  • Doctor
  • Symptoms
  • Diagnosis
  • Tests performed
  • Test results
  • Prescribed action/medication(s)
  • Notes

Finally, consider scanning all your hard-copy documents so you have digital versions of them. That way you won’t have to start again if something were to happen to your physical copies (ie. Losing them or accidentally destroying them). You can scan documents by heading into a local Officeworks, or by downloading apps like Genius Scan on your phone.

For soft-copy medical records

Sign up to an online storage software – like Dropbox or Google Drive. This allows you to access your files from anywhere in the world, no matter what device you’re using. Simply pop in your login details, and you’ll be able to access everything you ever saved!

After that, it's as easy as organising your digital paperwork in the same way you organised your physical paperwork; in folders, by date (or year).

So I’ve created my digital and physical medical record file(s), but how do I keep them safe?

We’d always recommend locking physical records in a fireproof safe, a lockable filing cabinet or adding a lock to the outside of the folder (if possible). For digital records, we’d recommend creating a password that’s unique to that specific account, and saving it in a locked document (the ‘Notes’ app on the iPhone allows you to do this).

How long should I keep my medical records for? Do I still need my records from 20 years ago?

Most doctors keep your medical records for 7-10 years. We’d recommend you keep yours for at least 1 year, just in case you need to make a Medicare or health insurance claim or dispute. We’d also recommend holding onto super important records – for example, anything in relation to big, life-altering surgeries or diagnoses – just in case you need them in the future.

So if you’re unsure if you still need to keep your flu vaccine certificate from 2005? Our answer is: No. You can likely shred that record. But if you’re unsure about keeping your cancer diagnosis records from 2003? We’d likely say it’s best to keep that one. Just in case.

Wrap up

In summary, we’d recommend keeping your medical bills and records for a minimum of 1 year, and then shredding those you feel you might never have to revisit, or that were teeny tiny blips in your health journey.

Did you know you can store your important contacts in your Willed Vault? Gain access to your own Vault today by writing your Will with Willed at

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. This blog should not be relied upon as legal, financial or medical advice.

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