This system is for everyone, whether you’re 20 years old and the only reason you see doctors is when you’re falling off your snowboard, or whether seeing a roster of medical and alternative professionals is a regular part of your routine. I’m all for taking care of your health. My question is do you know your health history?
I don’t know about you, but I suffer from denial whenever I get sick. My first reaction, ALWAYS, is to deny or minimize the problem. Oh, this toothache? It’s not bad. I’ll take a few more Advil. I haven’t got time to be sick.
Literally. Every. Time. I did this even when I worked in an office where drop in clinics were five minutes away.
What’s the problem?
The problem is that when I treat every instance as a one-off, I don’t see patterns.
And when the majority of your medical visits are at drop in clinics, the doctor on call is unlikely to see patterns either. His job is to get you assessed and out of his office, prescription or referral in hand. I used to dread the annual physical. Not anymore. In today’s overloaded medical system, a general practitioner (GP) has a roster of about 10 patients/hour, which means she’s got six minutes to take care of your needs. That means the responsibility for knowing and monitoring a baseline of my physical health is up to me. Do I get colds every year at the same time? Am I prone to certain kinds of infections? How are my teeth? How often do I get headaches?
A true story
I have psoriatic arthritis, which is a lot less common than rheumatoid arthritis. Getting a correct diagnosis and treatment was a long journey of visiting doctors and insisting that something was wrong even if their usual tests didn’t show signs of arthritis. In the end, it took 4.5 YEARS of perseverance to get an appointment with a rheumatologist, and when I met her, I wasn’t helpful because I’d forgotten that I’d once had psoriasis.
The problem with the shoebox
I used to file all my healthcare claims by year. I’d throw out any paperwork related to prescriptions once they were done, and I had everything – medical, dental, and vision – all together in one place. It was less a system than a shoebox, and here’s what it didn’t tell me: my medical history.
Yeah. One of the things about adulting is having to monitor my own medical history. It’s the last word in not fun, but who else besides me knows who I see and why I see them? I have great longevity prospects, thanks to genetics, but how healthy will I be in old age? That part is really up to me.
How to organize your health history
It’s very simple: one binder with five sections, and file everything:
- Healthcare information – everything you need to make a claim. Include usernames and passwords. Everything. The last thing you want is to spend more time than you have to filing healthcare claims.
- Healthcare claims – every claim you’ve made, including the Explanation of Benefits (EOB)
- Medical – every piece of medical information, in chronological order, e.g., notes after visits to doctors and therapists, drug information inserts, copies of requisition forms, and include visits to alternative health providers: chiropractic, massage therapy, acupuncture, naturopathy. And BTW, mental health is also health, so visits to counsellors, notes from visits, and a copy of any prescriptions can be filed here, too.
- Dental – same as #3 except for dental.
- Vision – same as #3 except for vision
Where is this useful?
Are you planning to see a new doctor, dentist, naturopath, massage or physiotherapist? You’ll need to fill out a form. I’ve even seen long medical forms for pilates studios. It will be hugely helpful for you to bring your new binder of information to refer to. I recently visited the College of Dentistry at the University of Saskatchewan to consider a new implant. The form was breathtakingly long, and asked questions like When was the last course of antibiotics you were prescribed? Have you ever had oral surgery? Which tooth?
Where to start?
The best time to start anything is yesterday.
The next best time is today.
Lots of people are motivated to “go back to square one” and turn a simple binder into a major project. I’m not suggesting this at all. I’m suggesting that starting today and going forward is a good place to start. If it helps, I’ll share the concept of the Cutover Date. Since 2019 is nearly upon us, a natural Cutover Date is January, 2019. When you’re thinking where are my receipts?, you can remember that as of January, 2019, all my healthcare information is going in the binder.
In the past while, I’ve been helping a family organize their Coordination of Benefits (COB) claims. I swear, insurance companies deliberately make it hard to get the most out of benefits. In a future post, I’ll share how to organize COB claims, but in the meantime – get your receipts in for 2018!