Doctors who have a greater understanding of their patient’s medical history are able to provide more effective care. Most expect their primary medical practitioner to have all relevant information at their disposal. However, it is often the case that they do not have easy and immediate access to all pertinent records. Fortunately, patients can help solve this problem through effective collection and organization of information. Having a thorough record of your medical history, specifically relating to thyroid disease, helps doctors provide better care. The following tips and recommendations may help patients identify what information is important and how to organize it effectively.
What Information Do I Need?
The first step in compiling medical records for your personal use is getting access to information that has already been documented. Acquiring your existing medical history typically involves requesting information from a variety of sources. In addition to your primary physician, you will likely need to contact previous caregivers or facilities including family doctors and any previously visited specialists, hospitals, or other medical professionals. Acquiring this information should not be difficult as patients have a right to copies of their test results, immunization records, and discharge instructions. However, medical institutions and doctors can withhold annotations and other notes regarding the care provided.
Thyroid Test Results
Thyroid patients undergo many different tests that allow doctors to assess thyroid health. Having that information on hand can be beneficial for future treatment and also provide a greater understanding of how previous treatments or lifestyle changes impacted thyroid function. Test results to include in your records are thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), T4/Free T4, T3/Free T3, thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO), thyroid stimulating immunoglobulins (TSI), reverse T3, and thyroglobulin.
It may also be beneficial to have copies of tests for thyroid-influencing nutrients such as ferritin, leptin, fasting glucose levels, cholesterol, and iodine. Any other tests relating to the physical health of the thyroid such as ultrasound imaging, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron tomography (PET) scans should also be included.
Hold on to New Information
After compiling your general medical history and thyroid-specific information, continue to maintain an accurate record of your health by keeping copies of new results, prescriptions, diagnoses, etc. Make it a practice to ask for physical copies of important documents at the time they are presented. It is increasingly common for such documents to be digitized meaning that it may be possible to have the requested information e-mailed. Alternatively, some patients choose to bring a self-addressed, stamped envelope, with a note stating what documents they would like, their date of birth, and their name so the doctor or attendant can easily send a physical copy as soon as possible.
Track Your Condition
Taking notes on everyday experiences such as symptom frequency and intensity, emotional state, exercise, sleep quality, water consumption, and other health factors can help doctors better identify thyroid dysfunction. Depending on personal preference, a physical journal, digital notepad, or smartphone app may be used to track this information. Over time, this daily practice creates an image of bodily function that doctors can use to better diagnose one’s condition.
How Do I Organize My Medical Records?
Compiling your medical history and making it easily accessible are two different tasks. Without being able to quickly recall or locate relevant information, the collection of records does little good regarding treatment. Turning data into a usable resource requires the implementation of a filing or organizational system. Below are multiple approaches and suggestions that can be adapted and optimized for individual usability.
Paper Filing System
Although it may seem outdated in the digital era, the simplest and perhaps best method of storing medical records, blood-tests, etc. is with a paper filing system.
Chronological order is considered by many to be the most effective organizational method. Depending on how much information there is to be stored and how specific an individual wants to be, a chronological system allows for precise filing. Starting out, it may be best to begin with a large folder for a single year and then include 12 files within it to designate each month. As more records are acquired, greater specificity, such as week or day, may be beneficial.
Color coding also provides impressive organizational benefits. Assigning specific colors to certain types of information helps people recollect and search for documents more effectively. For example, designating all blood tests with a red tab, folder, or label allows for easy identification and access of that information. Using a chronological system in conjunction with color-coding expedites the filing process and makes it easier to find information.
Some prefer a digital approach to storing their medical information. This can cut down on the amount of physical storage space needed and improves searchability. However, it is important to always use a back-up such as an external drive or cloud storage service in case of technical failure.
A customizable electronic worksheet is a popular method for tracking medical information. Spreadsheets allow you to create columns or categories for specific information such as test results, reference ranges, medication dosage, etc. A major benefit of the spreadsheet method is that notations and other relevant information can be easily added and edited. Electronic spreadsheets are also searchable making it easier to find specific information.
Health insurance companies are also starting to provide greater digital access to medical records for their members. A growing number of policyholders have the ability to remotely access information pertaining to their care including test results, prescription drug lists, medication refills, and more. If your insurance company provides these tools be sure to take advantage of them.
Writing Your Own History
Without having a complete image of a patient’s medical history, it is difficult for doctors to provide optimal care. In the current medical system, information is often broken up and spread out among many different hospitals, doctors, and specialists. Because of this, your doctor typically does not have immediate access to a complete picture of their patient’s medical history. Fortunately, individuals can help resolve this issue by acquiring and organizing their own medical records. Take control of your medical records by seeking out and acquiring relevant information and using effective storage and organizational tools.