With the year winding down, now’s a great time to take some time out to think about next year. How do you feel you measured up when it came to caring for your health? Were you able to stay on top of your needs, or did you feel buried under them? If you felt swamped keeping up with the normal tasks of life on top of the extra needs of chronic illness, the winter is a great time to slow down and reconsider your approach to juggling and organizing your time and energy better.
In the last post, we barely scratched the surface in creating an old-school paper planner to organize all your medical-related messiness. While the act of being physically creative can be fun, and therapeutic on its own, if even the thought of coloring outside a line makes you break out into a stress-induced sweat, then a more straightforward digital medium might be a better fit for you.
A digital planner has a few strong pros to consider when compared to paper ones – namely, it’s accessible from just about anyplace with a signal and you can add records going back years or even decades, creating a much longer history more easily. You can add scans, printouts, voice recordings, images and other media that might be harder to include in a notebook and sharing with multiple doctors or family members can also be a much easier task, keeping everyone on the same page when it comes to health care decisions. However, on the flip side, online security has been touted as an issue, where you can never be 100% certain who has access to your medical information or what they might be using it for.
Your local hospital, doctor’s office or insurance plan may already have a program in place that they use to organize your medical information that you can log in to and use as well, so that’s a great place to begin. Pros: It’s convenient, already attached to your immediate health team and may have bonus features such as online appointment scheduling, direct contact to your doctor, medication refills, etc. Cons: Can be tricky to move the information if you change the hospital/doctor the program is connected to or maybe the program just doesn’t suit your needs.
There’s also been an explosion of independent companies who will host and organize a Personal Health Record online for you. Just a few I found online via a Google search include (in no particular order):
Some things to consider before signing up:
- Who has access? Can you choose who views your medical information? Can your doctors or emergency staff access it if needed?
- Security measures – how do they protect your information? Does the company sell your information to marketers (basically, how does the company make money to stay in business?)
There are also tons of stand-alone apps for every platform that include all kinds of trackers to keep tabs on your health. While these might not have all the features of the websites, they can be a great way to road test tracking your health before committing to a pricier, more involved planner.
The DIY Approach
Of course, you can also customize an online medical record by cobbling together one or more programs, giving you even more options in how to organize, compile and control your information. This is only limited by your imagination. You can use simple note-taking software such as OneNote or even Notepad. If you want to include webclippings, maybe a service like Evernote or SpringPad might fit the bill. Another option is creating a personal, wikipedia-like site. PC Magazine has a great tutorial that will walk you through it.
Again, the key is being clear on what you actually want to do with your planner. Google calendar is great if you just want to keep track of appointments, but maybe you also want to keep your doctors’ emails or type up post-appointment notes as well. Can you simply add your medical tasks into organizational programs you already use?
How do you keep track of your medical tasks online? What programs do you use?