When it comes to health care, advocating for yourself or a loved one is a tough job. The danger we face when doing so is that, "we don't know what we don't know", so we don't know the actions we need to take to help us help our self, our loved one and our healthcare providers.
Very few of us have taken time to seriously think about what we need to do, how we need to do it or how we can more effectively interact with our doctors and other healthcare providers. It is important to be very deliberate about everything we do and provide them with the right information, in the right way and at the right time. If we don't, we are at their mercy, hope they ask the right questions and can read between the lines of the information we do provide. Most of us think we can remember everything about our health, but we can't. Studies show we forget at least 50% of what is said during an appointment the minute we leave it. So, how much can we remember from months and years ago?
Years before I started documenting my health, I went through a series of chest x-rays because of some "spots" the doctor was concerned about. I was cleaning out old files that have followed me through many moves a few days ago and found the copies of the results of those x-rays I had completely forgotten about. In 2008 - 2009 I had four very unnecessary CT scans for the same spots, which exposed me to a tremendous amount of radiation that now increases my chances of cancer. Had I remembered the x-ray series done in the 1980's I could have shown my doctors the results of those x-rays, saved the radiation exposure and me and my insurance company a lot of money. It bothers me that I didn't remember those spots and being tested for them as I went through the CT scans over a two year period, but I didn't.
By law, doctors can purge our files every seven years and they do, so if you don't have your health records documented no one does. Even if the doctors have kept your records over the years, they are stored in a place far from your current medical records and will most likely never be referred to again. Certainly not during an appointment when the information may be needed.
The moral of the story: You never know when a piece of information from your past can help or even save your life. Document, document, document. How you organize and keep that documentation will make all of the difference.
For further information on documenting your care visit me at www.savvypatienttoolkit.com
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