Whether you just have one doctor or a few, chances are your family’s health care needs get complex quickly. Medical papers stack up. Appointments get busy. Medications go unfilled.
Keeping track of it all can feel a little impossible. Luckily, getting everything organized can do wonders for your schedule and your sanity, and it’s not as hard as you might think. These tips, tools and resources for managing your health care can help everyone, from the digital gurus who love health care apps to those who prefer everything printed out and kept in a file folder.
1. Make an Action Item After Every Doctor’s Visit
When you leave an appointment for yourself or a family member, ask yourself: What one thing do I need to do today?
Most of the time, that one action item will be to mark the next checkup on your print or digital calendar, but other types of visits may warrant other actions. Do you need to pick up a prescription from the pharmacy? Do you need to follow up with the doctor to report symptom progression?
Write down your action item and keep it in a place you’ll see often, such as your planner or on a sticky note by your car keys. Don’t scratch off the task or remove the sticky note until you’ve completed the action.
2. Create a Personal Health Record (PHR)
Your doctor keeps a chart of your medical records, so shouldn’t you keep one too? What would happen if you had to go to a new doctor who didn’t have access to your (or your family members’) chart? Enter the personal health record (PHR), a complete snapshot of your health history that’s yours to keep.
For digital enthusiasts, consider using an online tool that will collect and keep safe your medical records, such as Microsoft HealthVault. Or, if you’d like to do it the old-fashioned way with a hard copy, the National Institutes of Health has some great tips. And remember, you can always request your medical record to use as the basis for your PHR.
3. Make the Most of Your Patient Portal
If you’ve been offered access to an online patient portal, such as My Lahey Chart, sign up and explore the tool even if you’re not big into creating online accounts. The portal can help you quickly get access to medical records and test results and print them for manual filing if you wish. It’s one of the best tools to create your personal health record. In many cases, you can also message your doctor directly from the portal.
4. Stay on Top of Annual Appointments
If you often forget to make appointments for your annual checkups or physicals, make it a habit to always schedule your next appointment when you’re leaving your current one. That way, you can put next year’s checkup on your print or digital calendar a whole year in advance. Ask for an appointment card to take home, and put that card on your refrigerator or some other place you won’t forget.
5. Keep up With the Kids’ Health From Your Phone
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers Child Health Tracker, a paid app that organizes children’s doctors, checkups, information and records, along with upcoming shots and growth milestones. Users can add multiple children to their tracker and also read recommended health articles and handouts.
6. Keep Track of Vaccinations
For children’s immunizations, use an online tool or paper log to track each child’s shot record. To get started, print out this free template from the American Academy of Pediatrics. You could use the same layout for yourself or your spouse by adjusting it for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s recommended immunization schedule for adults. For adults who like to travel, check out CDC TravWell, a free app that shows recommended vaccines and medicine advice by destination.
7. Remember Medications
Health care apps like Medisafe can send pill reminders and log meds taken each day. If you prefer to track medications offline, this printable template from the National Instititute on Aging is a great way to get started.
8. Keep a Health Diary
Have you ever wanted to ask your doctor a thousand questions, but once you’re in an exam room, you’ve forgotten them all? A health diary can help keep those questions top-of-mind so you can make the most out of every checkup. Plus, you can log your medications, symptoms, vaccinations and appointment reminders too. Consider getting a health diary for the whole family, with a different colored notebook for each member.
9. Save Your Family Health History
By knowing your family history, you can help prepare for any genetic problems you or your family might face in the future. Get started with the U.S. Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait, an online tool that creates a printable history that you can keep alongside your medical records.
Ready to Get Organized?
Clearly, things can get quite complex — especially if you’re managing your health care plus your family’s, too. But by getting organized in a way that makes the most sense for your life, you can corral the chaos into something that’s not so complex after all. Life’s busy enough. Why should staying healthy make it even more hectic?