If you are in an accident or are suddenly unable to communicate, your advocate will use the instructions you provide in your living will to make sure your medical decisions are carried out and to stand up for your rights as a patient. Read our Living Will article to learn more and for links to help you create your living will.
· Hospital paperwork – I include surgical records and discharge papers here along with anything else to do with a hospital stay. You never know when you might need to refer back to something from a past treatment. Plus it can be helpful to know exactly when a procedure was done.
· Medications – Full disclosure is my key word for this one. I keep a record of every medication I take including herbs, vitamins, and over-the-counter pain relievers. When I have prescriptions from multiple doctors, I make sure they are all listed together. That way all my doctors can help make sure my medications won’t interfere with each other.
· Questions – This is the point of the office visit - what I need to know from my doctor. Just remember, writing down your questions doesn’t do any good if you don’t look at the list. Make sure you double check that you got all your answers before the appointment is over.
To help you get started, check out this link from Massachusetts General Hospital. It’s a basic medical history form that will help you pull all your information together. Keep it and your binder up-to-date and you’ll never have to struggle filling out paperwork for a new doctor again because everything you’ll need will be gathered in one convenient place.
As you can probably tell, the most important thing isn’t the binder. It’s keeping track of the records. If a binder sounds like too much work, get an accordion file and stuff everything in it. It may not be tidy, but at least you’ll only have one place to search when you need the info. And don’t stop when your own records are organized.