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Get Organized

Having a sense of control over one’s health may boost resilience and a sense of confidence…important aspects of the healing process.

Life is hectic enough as-is. Throwing one or more chronic health conditions 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 confidenceimportant aspects of the healing process.

Explore the following pages to learn more.

Keep a Medical Portfolio

Like it or not, life with chronic health condition(s) 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 Health Care 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.
  • Health care team info: A list of all your medical providers and other health care 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 health care provider: Any disease or treatment specific information provided to you by any of your health care 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.


Keep a Calendar

Even if you have had a good memory all of your life and have never had any trouble keeping track of your schedule before, dealing with a long term-disease will likely have a dramatic impact on your daily schedule.

A simple calendar can be an invaluable tool in navigating the next steps of your journey. Chances are you’ll see several healthcare providers and you may receive multiple cycles or types of treatments depending on the type and stage of your disease. You may be on one medication (or several) that are required to be taken at exact times. Keeping all of this information up-to-date and organized can be a challenge.

It is also important that you schedule important activities outside of your core healthcare appointments and medical treatments. For example, if you’ve decided that a daily walk or 20 minutes of quite meditation or a half hour of prayerful reflection is going to be an important part of your journey, it is important that you carve time out of each day for these activities. You will be busier than ever and do not want to allow such key elements of your health plan to be lost in the shuffle.

Finally, a calendar can also be a useful tool to help you share your important treatment events with those loved ones who support you and keep them informed of areas where you can use some help. Using a calendar to let your support team know of an upcoming opportunity for them to help you with your journey—whether it’s a you a ride to an appointment, providing a meal meals, or simply coming by to visit—is an easy way to keep your loved ones involved in your care and do so on your own terms.

What tools are available to help me create my calendar?

There are many calendars available on the internet. We have provided both weekly and monthly calendars for your use here. It is good to print out the calendar each week on a brightly colored paper so it does not get lost among all of the other paperwork you will be gathering on your journey. Put it on your fridge or on your bathroom mirror.

Download weekly calendar

Download monthly calendar