“I can see you are going to be my gold star patient,” the nurse remarked, as I responded to each of her intake questions with a piece of paper with all the info she needed.
For me, doing my medical homework gives me back a small feeling of control. If I walk in to a doctor’s appointment with as much information as I can provide, I can be a better advocate for my health. Never has the need for a medical spreadsheet been more clear to me than dealing with my kidney situation.
My system is not elaborate. I created a simple Google Sheets document (Google’s version of Excel) and have 5 tabs:
- ER/Doctor Visits (these are specifically kidney related)
- Doctor Contact Info
- Questions (cheat sheet of questions I want to ask at my next appointment)
- Pack List (added once my kidney removal surgery was scheduled, since I could be in the hospital for up to a week, and Raleigh is several hours from my home)
Here’s a sample of the info I captured:
I have given access (aka electronically shared) this spreadsheet with both my husband and my mom in case they needed to provide it and I wasn’t physically able to communicate it.
I go in and update the tabs any time I have had a new doctor visit, added or completed a medication, thought of a new question, or something else has changed. I print out copies prior to an appointment to use as a reference.
The visits list is usually mostly for me, so I can keep dates and procedures straight when reviewing symptoms and prior treatments with my doctor.
The meds list is the tab most commonly used, as I can just hand a copy to the intake nurse rather than having to go through all 17 of my current medications. They usually make a copy and hand it back to me, so sometimes I just print two.
The doctor list is all doctors, not just the ones for my kidney, just so I can give out any needed contact information for test result releases, etc. Also, keeping straight which hospital system they use allows you to know which MyChart website to log in to for messaging and more – and if the doctors can easily see each other’s files on me.
I’ll talk about some of the other things I do to advocate for myself in a later blog, but I wanted to present this by itself in hopes it will help others.