Take Control of Your Healthcare Experiences

Twice during the past two months, I delivered a presentation titled, “Navigating the changing healthcare system.” Once in the form of a webinar and once in front of a live audience.

Within it, I share several strategies, one of which is to prepare and use a Personal Healthcare File that includes a document titled, “Medical Conditions, Surgeries, Hospitalizations.” This recommendation sparked so many great questions during the presentations that I decided to share more about it with you, today.

Medical Conditions, Surgeries, Hospitalizations

When working with clients, we take a “project management” approach. Simply put, that means collecting, tracking and communicating information about yourself and your medical history to your team members and physicians. This allows all involved to work jointly in the creation of an action/treatment plan.

We tend to use Excel, but truthfully, any tool that allows for easy input and changes is fine. Don’t let technology get in your way — even pen and paper works!

Our tool, “Medical Conditions, Surgeries, Hospitalizations,” contains a few more items than the title implies.

It includes the following:

  • Name and date of birth
  • A list of medical conditions and when they were diagnosed
  • A list of surgeries and when they were performed
  • A list of hospitalizations, for what condition and when they happened
  • A list of procedures that were done along with diagnostic testing, for what condition and when they happened
  • A list of immunizations and when they happened
  • Preferred hospital, including the address
  • Preferred pharmacy, including address and phone number
  • Emergency contact(s) along with associated phone numbers

This tool, along with another one for medications (see below), helps physician appointments flow efficiently. (Click here to download a sample tool that you can modify for your own use.)

The medication spreadsheet includes:

  • Name and date of birth
  • Medication(s) currently prescribed and/or prescribed in the past, as well as any supplements
  • Dosage
  • Frequency
  • What the medication is prescribed for
  • Who prescribed it
  • Allergies to medications and other things, including foods, latex, environmental items, etc.
  • Preferred pharmacy, including address and phone number

I know, it may seem like a lot! But remember, even with physicians with whom we have existing relationships (and certainly with new physicians), their medical records may not be up-to-date. It’s up to us to keep the information current. Having this tool in hand will make that so much more efficient.

Where to Begin

Prior to the advancement of electronic medical records and Patient Portals, this type of compilation was hard to create. When working with clients, we were forced to rely on memory and/or the tedious process of formally requesting medical records from all the healthcare systems from which our clients received care in the past.

Today, it’s much easier, provided you enroll in whatever Patient Portals are available to you. Keep in mind, however, that while these may feel comprehensive, they are not easy to access while sitting down with a provider. In addition, if you seek care from a provider that is not in the same healthcare system as your electronic medical record, you are again forced to rely on memory.

A Real World Example

Recently, I accompanied a client who was seeking specialist care for a particular diagnosis — one that could require treatment that has benefits, but that also has potential side effects. I was so pleased to see my client use the “Medical Conditions, Surgeries, Hospitalizations” tool to relay her incredibly complex medical history, previous procedures/testing, treatments, etc.

At one point, while discussing potential treatments, the client’s knowledge of a condition that developed 10 years ago following a medication that was taken 13 years ago impacted the recommendations of this physician. A suggestion to obtain additional diagnostic testing, based on the readily accessible previous testing, was also recommended.

In the end, not only was my client able to quickly and accurately answer the questions posed by her physician, she even asked her if she wanted a copy (the physician enthusiastically said yes)!

The discussion was comprehensive, detailed and satisfying, all as a direct result of the time my client spent taking responsibility for her own experience.


In the spirit of Sua Sponte,” I highly recommend getting organized and creating whatever tools work best for you. Do this not only for yourself, but also for those in your life for whom you may be a Care Partner.

Before each physician appointment, get in the habit of reviewing your tools to see if any updates are required. This will get you thinking about your medical history and, hopefully, prompt you to prepare an agenda with an objective and specific questions.

I guarantee that if you take the time and the responsibility, you will have a positive experience!