(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.