Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Organize Your Doctor Appointments

So, after a long, long, long night of chills, fever, throbbing headache and intense body pain, I realized that this is no ordinary bug. First thing this morning after getting the Princess up and off to school (funny, I only vaguely remember anything from this morning except that I fed her a doughnut and juice box for breakfast...which she loved I might add. I think she even asked me for another one but I said "no" so that's not too bad right?) anyway, I crawled back into bed with my planner - which I will talk about in detail at a later day, for now I will just tell you that I wouldn't last a day without it and don't know how people survive without some form of planner or pda or other system. I digress, so I am in bed with my planner and the phone waiting until 9:00 am on the dot to make an appointment with my doctor. I call and they tell me to come right in so I grab my planner, purse and go.

First let me say that I am going to live... I don't even have the flu, just some sort of mean, nasty virus that is trying to kill me but the doctor gave me some medication , after a rather thorough exam, and sent me on my way. I love my doctor, she rocks... she leaves no stone unturned and has a wonderfully sunny disposition. OK, so now that we know I'm gonna make it, let me tell you that I am no stranger to doctors, testing, medication, hospitalization, surgery and procedures. You name it, I have probably done it. I say that only to assure you that I know my way around the medical field and have tried every organizational trick in the book to keep my medical history and records straight! So here is what I have finally come up with after years of trial and error...

There are many products on the market that you can buy just for this very reason is one example. Another option is and there are so many more just like these. There are also software packages you can buy to keep everything on your computer and even ebooks that you can download and print at home. I have purchased several of these organizers and realized that you don't need to spend so much money when you can make your own for a fraction of the price at home. You will need:
  • 3 Ring Binder ( I like the ones you can slip your own cover into because I like that I can personalize each binder and I use binders for many different organizational tasks)
  • Computer and a word processing program like Word or Excel to make tables
  • Notebook paper for taking notes
  • Dividers with labels
  • Pen- I like to attach my pen to my binder with a cute ribbon so I never loose it.

Now you have the supplies, get to work... Label your dividers any way you choose: by doctor, by month or year. Make sure you have a section for Medications you are taking and keep this updated regularly. Also make several copies of this because each doctor will want a copy for their own records and it keeps you from having to fill out all your medications over and over. Have another section for allergies and allergic reactions, again keep this updated. If you have several illnesses like I do then you can have a section with a list of your illnesses and when you were diagnosed and by which doctor. Always have a section for each of your doctors that includes their name, address, phone, fax. Keep notebook paper in each doctors' section and write down the date of your appointment, reason for appointment and any questions you have plus write down notes from what the doctor is saying. They come in so quickly and then they are gone so you may need the notes to read later to see exactly what the doctor said. Another divider should have your insurance paperwork, card, birth certificate and any other papers you may need if you must rush to the ER or be admitted to the hospital. If you are that sick than you are too sick to be running around looking for all of this stuff and someone needs to be able to grab it and go!

Another important section is a list of all of your surgeries, procedures, tests, lab work, hospitalization... include the date, doctor, location , reason and results. I wish I had done this at the very beginning of my "journey" because they always ask and I never wrote all of that down in the beginning so now I have had to try and go back and piece together my medical history. That doesn't sound too complicated unless you have moved around, seen many different doctors and had so much testing that it is all just a blur now!

So, now you have this beautiful Medical History Portfolio ( it even sounds organized doesn't it?). You have your name, address and phone numbers on it and in it just in case you leave it somewhere. You have beautifully labeled (I just adore my label maker!) dividers with all of your important information behind each one. So now it's time to go to a doctors appointment...

If you have never been to this doctor before, you will have to fill out a ton of paperwork but now, you are not scared! Why? Because you have every single piece of information that you will need in your handy dandy binder. If you have been to this doctor before, simply flip to that doctor's divider and there you will have the notes from your last visit, any tests that were done, the results, and any questions you may have for the doctor for this visit. Ask your questions, fill in the answers, take notes about your diagnosis, write down any testing or lab work that they may do so that you can follow up on it at your next appointment, gather your prescriptions ( record them or photocopy them for your binder) and you are on your way...

FABULOUS right? Well, yes UNLESS you are so sick that you feel like you may die at any moment and you are sure that you are suffering from an incurable disease that no amount of medication will ever cure or even help you to feel the tiniest bit better... Then, you... grab your binder or planner (your planner has paper in it as well as names, addresses, phone numbers and dates of all doctors appointments as well, it is just not quite as thorough as you Medical History Portfolio but will do in a pinch). You drag yourself into the office, they feel so sorry for you that they take you right back so you can lay down on the table (also so you don't scare the other patients) and you wait to die, um I mean , you wait for the doctor. You take brief notes in your planner, write down what you can then go home and hope your husband takes pity on you. Then, later, when you are feeling better, you transcribe your notes and tests and prescriptions into your Medical History Portfolio.

Geez this was long. I hope this helps you, it really does work. I made my daughter her own binder when she was born so she wouldn't have to go back and fill in history later. The sooner you take charge of your own medical care the better. It is vitally important to stay on top of your care and to be your own advocate otherwise, unfortunately, somethings do fall through the is what it is!

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