// December 29th, 2008 // 1 Comment » // Health
This article is part of a patient education series that I previously published elsewhere. Explanation is here. If you have already read this article, please accept my apologies.
We are having a rest here in the Southern Hemisphere. Summer holidays are an excellent time to do some health spring cleaning. I encourage you to take stock of your medical conditions, drugs and risks. This will improve you ability to have a good relationship with your doctor, and better outcomes for yourself.
How should I take stock?
This is the easiest thing in the world, but it will involve a little time. Take a paper and pencil, your favourite word-processor or one of the more technological solutions suggested below, and make three lists.
- List all your present and past medical conditions
This includes anything you were treated for as a kid (you can leave out colds and flu’s unless they caused a hospital admission), anything you have been in hospital for, or taken long term medication for. Take a highlighter and mark those conditions that you think are still important to your health. For example, if you had a hip replacement 6 years ago, it may not cause you problems now, but you know that it might break down at some point in the future, so you still need to be aware of it.
- List all the medications you now take
Try to work out for each medication when you are meant to take it, how many you should take and how strong the tablets/injections are. If you can, write out what the medication is for, and what other names it has. Finally, try to make a guess of how regularly you actually take the medication correctly. Remember, you are the only one that is reading this.
- List all the doctors and health professionals who look after you
Make sure you have their contact details and write down which conditions each of them thinks they help you look after. Write down the next appointments you have with any of them. For each write down when you should make a new appointment. For example; “Make an earlier appointment with Charlie the Physio if I have worse back pain.”
Let these lists bounce around in your head for a little while to make sure they are complete and you haven’t forgotten anything. Now take a good look at your lists.
There are probably some conditions that you are not sure about, and don’t understand. Maybe there are medications you don’t know what they are for, or are forgetting to take. For those medications that you are worst at taking, make sure you know what they are meant to be treating. Check your final list to make sure all the doctors and clinics you see are listed, and you are not due for a new appointment with any of them.
What to do with your Health Audit
Once you have a good handle of all your medical problems and your list of appointment details are up to date, then find somewhere to keep that information. You might choose an old-fashioned folder in your deskdrawer, or keep the information electonrically on your computer (consider putting a password on it, in case someone steals your computer).
Another solution would be to use an online health managemnet service like Google Health, HealthVault or Revolution Health. These collate all your health information together into one archive that you can access with your web browser.
Review your information regularly
The most important next step is to make a recurring calender appointment, every month, that reminds you to update your file. This will mean you can simply grab your folder, or printout if you need to head out to a new doctor, and trust that you have everything you need.
If you have a printable or paper version, tuck it in the corner of your purse and keep it with you. This improves the care that you get - both in preventative medicine and any emergencies that occur.
I have seen this system in use and it works wonderfully. It wasn’t initiated by me, but my obstetrician when I was pregnant with my children. At the end of each office consultation, she would print out a summary of all the tests results, philosophical discussions and medications that were relevant. When I arrived for my deliveries in a state of panic and disarray, I handed the most recent print out to her, and she knew everything she needed to. It would have been the same if we ended up in a strange hospital or if her computer battery failed. It was the perfect solution to reduce my stress, and make her job easier.
Try your health audit today. Make sure there are no chinks in your knowledge and you will reap the health rewards.