Life is hectic enough as-is. Throwing one or more long-term illnesses into the mix only adds to the to-do lists, schedules, reminders, and daily tasks. However, if you want to truly be an ambassador for your own health, getting and staying organized is an important part of the process. The good news is, there are things you can do so stay in control and on task, such as keeping a medical portfolio, staying on top of your labs and diagnostics, and maintaining a healthcare and wellness calendar.
Although getting organized may require some extra work on the front end, and staying organized demands discipline, you’ll likely find that by taking a few steps to create a system to manage and track all aspects of your health care, you’ll feel more in control. Having a sense of control over one’s health may boost resilience and a sense of confidence
Explore the following pages to learn more.
Keep a Medical Portfolio
Like it or not, life with long-term illness comes along with a lot of information and paperwork to keep straight. While the amount of data, records, guides, and test results can easily become overwhelming, letting this information slip through the cracks can be harmful to your treatment and recovery. Think of each bit of information as a puzzle piece: if one is missing, it’s difficult to see the whole picture. A lost lab result, discarded clinical summary, or forgotten medication side effect could have been crucial in properly assessing your health status and treatment plan.
By keeping an organized “Medical Portfolio”, you are creating a holistic picture of your health and medical story. A medical portfolio will help you keep organized, track changes to your health status and symptoms, identify triggers as well as helpful treatments, and prove an invaluable tool for preparing for and making the most of provider visits.
You can keep your medical portfolio in hard copy using a three-ring binder or accordion folder. Alternatively, you can keep an electronic copy as an encrypted file on your personal computer or external hard drive. Stick with a system that works for you!
What should you include in your Medical Portfolio? Here is a list of the basics:
Visit Healthcare Tools to download free templates for many of the documents listed below.
- Research: Scientific articles, reports, and current news about your medical condition(s) that interest you and may be appropriate to discuss with your medical provider(s). Read more about gathering information
- Lab and diagnostic results: Including blood work, imaging, biopsy results, and other diagnostics. Read more about labs and diagnostics.
- Treatment History: A summary and timeline of treatments for your medical condition(s) – this includes western medicine treatments such as surgeries and medications, as well as complementary treatments and therapies, including lifestyle changes like special diets or exercise regimens.
- Clinical summaries: Written summaries of all health care provider appointments. Request a print out of your clinical summary at the end of your appointment, or download it from your health care provider’s online patient portal, if available.
- Symptom Diaries: Records of any symptoms related to your physical, mental, or emotional health, as well as possible side-effects of any medications or other therapies.
- Medications sheet: A detailed list of all current prescriptions, vitamins, and supplements, including dosage and intended usage information.
- Healthcare team info: A list of all your medical providers and other healthcare practitioners.
- Health history: A complete history of your medical conditions (remember to include information on mental and emotional diagnoses – such as depression and anxiety – as well as physical conditions).
- Family medical history: You may have to do some detective work to complete a thorough and accurate family medical history, but the “clues” it can provide your doctor will be worth it!
- Info provided by doctor or healthcare provider: Any disease or treatment specific information provided to you by any of your healthcare practitioners.
“The patient has a wealth of information that the physician’s not going to be aware of if they don’t bring it up.” -Dr. Ramona Seidel, MD
Citation: Patient and Clinician Videos. Content last reviewed October 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/ask-your-doctor/videos/clinician05/index.html
Keep a Calendar
Maintaining a healthcare calendar can help you stay organized and motivated on your healing journey. Calendars can be helpful in so many ways:
- Keeping healthcare practitioner appointments
- Scheduling self-care and wellness activities
- Sharing your healthcare appointments with loved ones
- Goal and action planning for the weeks and months ahead
- Tracking symptoms or health-related updates
You may wish to incorporate your healthcare calendar into your existing calendar. Also consider creating a separate health-care and self-care calendar specific to your healing journey, if it’s not too much to juggle. Plenty of online calendars exist, as do those built into email servers (like Google and Yahoo). Many people prefer old-fashioned paper calendars. Choose the type of calendar that works best for you. Think about whether you prefer electronic or hard copy and if you like to plan by the day, week, or month. You may be surprised to find how important and helpful a simple tool like a calendar can be on your healing journey.