To coincide with the launch of Google Health, I thought I would 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
- List all the medications you now take
- List all the doctors and health professionals who look after you
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.
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.
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 is Google Health?
Google Health is a new service offered by the omnipotent Google. Basically the idea is you enter all of your health information into one secure account. It keeps a track of all your conditions and medications, and all of the information that was previously on index cards (or in your head) is kept secure.
But there’s more. With your account, you can access interesting information about your conditions, search for US doctors and navigate to their websites, keep track of doctor contact information and even share the information you have entered with other people. This works in a secure way, and could be used to give your health information to a doctor, or your next of kin in case of an emergency.
How does reviewing your health information help? What should I do now?
Once you have your health information in one place, save it and review it regularly. It is to your advantage to know what is going on with your health. 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.