The importance of keeping a medical journal


(Originally published in the Medavie Blue Cross Health News newsletter)

Have you ever thought of keeping a medical journal?  Most people never give it a moment’s thought… until they need to access important medical information and have no recorded data.

Keeping a medical journal or log is an important step to  being a pro-active participant in your own health care or  that of your family members. Whether to help you keep  track of past illnesses, diseases, vaccinations and injuries,  or simply to provide at-a-glance medical information for  different family members, recording pertinent  information in a medical journal could save your life or  the life of someone you love. Having this information at  your fingertips can help you remember important things  such as who had their immunization, who has which  allergies, etc.; details that can be life-altering during emergencies.

Keeping your health history is a great way to monitor  health treatments and you’ll also have the information  ready should you wish to discuss details with your  physician. The log can contain anything relevant to your  health such as your weight, height, any medical  conditions, a list of medications and their prescribed use, past illnesses and surgeries, etc.

A journal doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated; a  simple notebook or three-ring binder will do. The  following steps will help you set up your medical journal:

  • Begin by recording personal information and vital  statistics such as date of birth, height, weight, blood  type, blood pressure, current prescribed medications,  treatments you are currently undergoing. You may  also wish to include information on glasses/contacts  and possibly dental records as some dental conditions  can affect general health.
  • Record any information related to your doctor and any  specialists you may be seeing such as time/date/reason  for visit, any tests/screening you may be undergoing and date of next appointment. Don’t forget to list  your doctor’s phone number and address and contact  information for your pharmacy if it keeps an  electronic history of your prescriptions. You may also wish to include your physiotherapist, dentist,  chiropractor, etc.
  • Have a section called “Medically related phone calls  and correspondence” where you record any phone calls  you may have had with your doctor, nurse or clinic.
  • A section should be dedicated to any prescribed  medications including dosage, duration of treatment  and reason for taking the medication, as some drugs  are used for different indications. This will prove  invaluable if a family member has to visit the  emergency room where someone will surely ask what  medications the person is taking.
  • Have a heading in your journal called “Allergies and  Interactions” where you list food and drug allergies (or  any other allergies you may have) including details on  the reactions you experience due to these allergies.
  • Another section of your journal should contain details  of any surgeries or procedures you may have had, such  as exploratory surgery (make notes as to why you  underwent this procedure), blood transfusions (and  reason why), etc. Don’t forget to include the doctor’s name and contact number for each listing.
  • Your next section should be called “Illnesses and Injuries” where you list things like chicken pox, swine flu, a broken leg, appendicitis (and whether you have one or not) and any information you feel may be relevant here. Ensure you record dates and treatments received for each illness/injury.

Remember to keep your medical journal up-to-date and record any information you feel is relevant to your  health. You may also want to note in your journal changes in habits like quitting smoking, any major weight loss or gain, changes in diet or exercise habits, etc.

Whether you’re 16 or 65, it’s never too late to start a medical journal and being proactive by keeping a history of your health is another step towards being healthy and happy.

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