When my mother died in June 2007, my father came to live with me. He had advanced cases of prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease, and my life soon became a whirlwind of visits to doctors, hospitals, and testing facilities. I quickly discovered that these visits were much easier to manage when I developed a one-page summary of all Dad’s pertinent medical information that I could hand the health care providers at each facility.
Do you have medical conditions that cause you to doctor frequently? Do you care for someone who does? Then you, too, would benefit from a brief document listing all of your diagnoses, drugs and doctors. Use your favorite word-processing program and include the following:
- The patient’s full legal name (important for Medicare and other medical assistance programs), street address, home phone, cell phone and email address. Dad didn’t have an email address, but I provided everything else.
- If the patient has given anyone a Health Care Power of Attorney, give that person’s same full contact information too, along with the indication that they are Health Care POA. In my case, this was my brother.
- If the patient has a regular caregiver who should be contacted with updates or reports, give that person’s full contact information as well. On Dad’s summary, this was me.
- List each condition for which the patient has a formal diagnosis from a physician. If you can, include the diagnostic billing code, obtainable from the billing department of the doctor who made the diagnosis. Also include the date of diagnosis if you know it. Even noting only the year can be helpful. Dad’s diagnoses included prostate cancer and Parkinson’s; they also included medication-related depression, Parkinson’s-related dementia, and prostate-related urinary incontinence. The point here is to note secondary conditions, too. They all have a bearing on the patient’s treatment.
- List each drug the patient is taking, along with the dosage and frequency. Example: “Levaquin, 500 mg., 2x/daily.” Later, if a medication is removed, leave it on the list with a note “Discontinued, [date.]” It’s all about sharing useful information.
- List the name, address, telephone number and specialty of each and every physician the patient sees, including their primary care physician. Doctors often send reports to the other physicians treating their patients, and this information simplifies that process.
- If your patient has multiple medical conditions, as my father did, it can be challenging to fit all the information on one page. Fiddle with font sizes, margins, spacing, and the use of tabs and columns to try and get everything on one sheet. What is true for employment seekers’ resumes is just as true for patients’ resumes: The more concise they are, the more likely they will get read and used.
Store the document on your computer, and update after each medical visit that causes a change in the information. Create a header or footer with the notation “Updated [date.]” Print out a fresh, updated copy for each new medical visit. Keep a couple of current copies on hand for “grab and go” situations like emergency room visits and ambulance transports.
Throughout the two years I cared for my father, I was told over and over again by doctors, nurses, billing clerks, testing technicians and others how helpful this information was, and how much time it saved them as they cared for Dad. In turn, it gave me satisfaction to know that I was doing something concrete and beneficial for my father. This can be so important for the caregiver facing the discouragement of tending to someone with a difficult, chronic or terminal illness.