Diabetes Care: Organizing Your Medical Information

Many of us remember a time when people tended to stay with one employer for years, and had the same health insurance, and health care providers for years.

That scenario is now fodder for nostalgia. Today, jobs, insurance policies and primary physicians can change as frequently and unexpectedly as the weather, making it more important than ever to keep our medical information organized.

At the very least we should have our own medical info, and that of each family member stored in a digital or physical notebook, box, or file folder. This can make choosing health plans, transitioning to new doctors, monitoring symptoms, and managing medications less overwhelming.

Health Care Notebook

Even if we keep an electronic personal health record, and utilize our medical provider’s patient portal, it’s wise and reassuring to have hard copies of our medical information. What we have on paper can serve as a backup for our digital records, and vice versa.

One effective way of organizing hard copy records is to create a health care notebook, ideally one for each family member, using three-ring binders with tabbed dividers, pocket folders, and sheets that hold business cards.

Although the dividers can be labeled to reflect personal needs, many people with diabetes will want these eight tabs:

  1. Doctors, Clinics, and Hospitals: keep the name, address, and phone number of all the physicians who treat you, plus the names and numbers of other personnel who provide assistance.
  2. Medical History: include all available records going back to childhood (e.g. immunizations, illnesses, injuries, surgeries), and the date, time, and circumstances of high and low blood sugar events. Also, keep a list of the illnesses that close family members (parents, grandparents, children, aunts, uncles) have had; for deceased relatives, record what took their life.
  3. Test Results: pocket folders make it easy to file copies of fasting glucose, A1C, and other test outcomes.
  4. Medications: keep a running list of medications taken, including dosage. It’s a good idea to make note of any side effects experienced, and why a medication was changed or discontinued.
  5. Glucose, Food, Exercise Log: this is an optional tab for people keeping a log of their glucose readings, and/or food intake, and/or physical activity. Those who have monitoring information on an app might print out hard copies to keep in the notebook.
  6. Check-Ups: this is the place to keep track of physical exam, eye exam, and dental visits—when we went, and when we’re scheduled to return.
  7. Insurance Information: we may need a separate drawer or bookshelf to store all the directories and booklets sent by our insurance provider, but basic insurance information - policy names, ID numbers, contact information, and anything else we may need or want to know in a hurry - goes here.
  8. Diabetes Info/Articles: since memory can be a sketchy thing, it’s wise to keep materials or articles about diabetes (or other conditions) that have been, or might be helpful.

Some individuals may also want sections for treatment records, medical equipment (e.g., monitoring supplies, insulin pumps), and/or home health services.

Besides providing a backup for our digital records, a health care notebook can be a blessing for family members, or other caregivers needing our medical information should we become seriously ill. Once put together, it takes only a few minutes each month to keep a notebook updated.

Source: Lynda Shrager/Everyday Health
Photo credit: Ashish

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