When medical issues arise, it is customary to seek the services of a qualified physician or practitioner. When you do, you expect that practitioner to bring knowledge, expertise and experience to bear in assisting you with the issue.

But when you do seek out such services, what are you expected to bring to the table? How can you best help your doctor help you?

One answer is by providing your doctor with information - information that is relevant, legible and organized. Too much may well hide something important. Too little or missing information may have catastrophic consequences as may illegible or poorly organized information.

Most people rely on their memory when asked to fill out the myriad of questionnaires and answer the questions posed when visiting a physician. Do you? Is your memory that reliable? Is there room on the form for every item? What if you forget to mention or indicate some family history item or a medication you are taking? What if what you forgot proved to be a particularly important piece of information?

You can help your doctor immensely by having well organized information about relevant things related to your health. Keep the data current and keep it formally. Keep it all the time, not just in times when you may need it.

Deciding that you are going to keep this type of information raises some questions: What kind of information should you keep? What should you do with it? Why should you do it? And how should you do it?

Well, here are some ideas for you to consider.

What Should You Keep Track Of?

There are several types of information you should keep a record of. They are information about:
1. medications and supplements
2. past, present, emerging and potential medical conditions
3. surgeries, exams, tests and other medical procedures
4. past and scheduled visits with health professionals
5. symptoms, patterns and feelings, and
6. important health measures

The first 4 types are static in nature – that is, the data does not change once captured and does not require much time or effort to keep it current.
1. Keep track of every medicine and supplement you take or have ever taken: keep a record of its common name, its technical name, the prescribing physician, the dosage and the date you started and/or stopped taking it.
2. Keep track of phobias, allergies, childhood diseases, accidents and any potential hereditary conditions such as cancers and heart conditions incurred by members of your immediate family
3. Keep a record of tests and procedures you have had – ultrasounds, colonoscopies, surgeries, biopsies, etc. – the dates, referring physicians and results if available.
4. Keep a record of your visits to your doctors – when you visited, when your next visit is scheduled, what you discussed, what you want to discuss, questions you have, what was decided, the outcomes, and so on.

The last two categories are more dynamic – that is, the information changes frequently, depending on what you are keeping track of. This type is referred to as time-series data because there are many records of the same measure taken at different points in time – hourly, daily, monthly, annually or whenever. This data is repetitious so you can often use it to generate charts that allow you and your doctor to see trends and correlations to other data.
5. Symptoms and patterns can sometimes be measured and sometimes not, but you should keep a record of such things as hours of sleep, discomfort, bowel movements, dreams, moods, food and drink or anything relevant to your issue. Record the time and what has occurred.
6. In the last category, there is also a date and the specific measure taken, and sometimes a target and an upper and lower limit. Examples include the results of blood work (HDL and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides), pulse, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, body mass index, and so on. You can also track physical activities such as miles run or pedaled, laps swum, hours of exercise and so on – anything you can measure.

What Should You Do With All This Information And Why Should You Keep Track Of It All?

First and foremost, you can use some of the information to help you better manage your health on your own – your doctor does not always have to be involved. There is a saying that suggests one can better manage something if one can measure it. Review the data and look for trends, patterns and correlations. When you see a trend that you do not like, do something about it – it may be a warning. Change your diet, exercise pattern or whatever. Quite often, this is enough to bring the measure back to where it should be. Bring the charts when visiting your doctors so you can discuss the implications of a specific measure or a trend in a measure, as there may be a need for medication or other options help bring the measure back into line.

Bring all of the information with you to every appointment that you have with a medical practitioner. When asked about medication or supplements you are taking, for information about past conditions or family history, or for past procedures and surgery, hand the relevant report over, or use them to help you fill in any required forms. Bring a copy of all of this data whenever you are traveling. Well organized medical records like these could be life-saving should you find yourself in a foreign hospital or having to see a physician as the result of an accident or illness while away from home. It will also help should the time come when you have to deal with insurance companies.

How Should You I Do It?

Use a computer application if possible because you will find that there is a lot of data to track, even if you are in good health. You can use paper, note pads and graphing paper, but a computer system makes it much easier. One which is tailored to this type of information is called ‘the Recordskeeper’. It can store all the information you will ever need. It is relatively easy to use and will provide you with all the reports and charts you need. You can use the same program for a lot of other things also, like your home inventory and keeping any other type of personal information.

To view examples of the types of reports referred to above, follow the links below:
http://therecordskeeper.com/SampleReport_MedicationRegimen.pdf
http://therecordskeeper.com/SampleReport_MedicalConditions.pdf
http://therecordskeeper.com/SampleReport_MedicalVisits.pdf
http://therecordskeeper.com/SampleReport_SymptomsMonitoring1.pdf
http://therecordskeeper.com/SampleReport_SymptomsMonitoring2.pdf
http://therecordskeeper.com/SampleReport_WeightTrend.pdf

You can see other examples and other ideas at the following web-site: http://therecordskeeper.com

So! Can you help your doctor? Yes, you can, and you should. Doing so may just well be the most important thing you have done. Your health is important – there is not much else without it. Don’t wait until it is too late. Don’t stop once you start.

Bob Robinson

Author's Bio: 

Bob Robinson is a computer professional and consultant in the data management profession with over 30 years experience in data processing.
As the founder of RecordsKeeper Software, Bob’s passion is to provide ideas and software that helps people get control of their lives, to function better and to improve the ability to manage their affairs by having well organized information about everything that is of importance to them.
Presently, Bob is writing articles and building his business.
You can reach Bob at rbtrobinson@rogers.com or visit the RecordsKeeper website at http://www.therecordskeeper.com