You are away from home and wake up in your hotel room with flu-like symptoms. You find a walk in clinic nearby and make your way there to get help. The appointment starts with dozens of questions about your health and family history. As you struggle to remember some of the information that they are requesting, you wish you had it all written down. Each medical facility will ask for similar information. Make it easy on yourself by getting it together ahead of time so you’ll have it wherever you travel.
One of the first things they will ask you is what medications you are taking. This is so they will be careful not to prescribe something which may react poorly with other medications that you’re on. Include the following information in your list:
- Name of the medication – indicate whether you are taking the generic or brand-name form.
- Formulation – tablet, capsule, liquid, injectable, cream, etc.
- Dosage and frequency – for example “one 15 mg tablet twice each day.”
- Reason for taking the medication – indicate for what condition the medication was prescribed.
Also note what over-the-counter medications you take regularly and for what condition. Finally, make a note about any medication allergies you have.
Current Medical Status
Note any medical conditions for which you are currently being treated. Include the following information:
- Date the condition was first diagnosed
- Types of symptoms you experienced when diagnosed
- The treatment for that condition
Note both diseases and injuries for which you are currently being treated, such as:
- “Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in November 2004 which is being controlled by diet”
- “Injured my back last August and am taking over-the-counter ibuprofen for the pain”
Note any major surgical procedures you’ve had. Some procedures that once required a hospital stay and general anesthesia can now be done as an outpatient, such as gallbladder removal. Make note of any of those, as well. Also, note where a procedure required leaving foreign objects in your body, such as metal screws in your ankle to repair a fracture. This helps when the facility takes X-rays of you.
Note any medical conditions in your birth family. This can be both long-term conditions and single-events such as:
- “My father had a heart attack when he was 68 and required surgery on his coronary arteries”
- “My mother had diabetes for the last 30 years of her life”
How to Make This Information Useful
Now that you have this information together, what do you do with it? There are two situations where having this easily accessible is useful:
- You walk in to a medical facility where you can answer these questions yourself.
- You are brought into a medical facility from an accident, heart attack or stroke and cannot respond to questions.
Concerns about the privacy of medical information make it difficult to know which method of organizing your information is best. Here are some suggestions as to how to store this information so it is helpful to you and others when you need it:
- Type the information and print it out on papers that you keep with you in your purse or briefcase
- Type abbreviated responses onto small cards that you can carry in your wallet
- Store the information as notes on your phone or tablet
- Store the information in cloud storage that can be accessed by a phone, tablet or computer
- Store the information as a text file on a USB drive attached to your key ring
This last option is useful when you are unconscious and can’t give out your information. Write or type on a small card to keep in your wallet that says “My medical information is stored on the USB drive on my keyring” to help medical personnel access your information.
Organizing your medical information this way helps you communicate it to the medical personnel accurately and efficiently. You’ll breeze through those initial questionnaires so they can start treating the reason you came to see them in the first place.