Nurse: “Wuside your hospital book dey”(where is your hospital book?)
You scramble through your bag of things but then you realize you ‘forgot’ your book at home (admit it, you probably don’t even know where it is right?)
You: (sighs) I will just buy a new one
Habah…how many new hospital books can one person get?
Research has shown that, 7 in 10 people during hospital visits either have a new ‘hospital book’, one with incomplete medical history’ or have never owned one before (yep, always writing on papers…which will later be used some day to wrap puff puff or replace toilet roll).
Having your personal health information organized and accessible is a great way to play an active role in your health care team.
In our Cameroonian context, most of our health information can be found in our hospital books (books specially designed or basically any book designated for medical visits).
What information can be found in a personal health record?
- Contact information: Name, address, phone number, list of emergency contacts and corresponding contact details
- Demographics: Marital status, workplace etc
- Medical information: Date of birth, weight, height, blood type, family history, any chronic medical conditions, list of current medications and supplements, allergies, any medical procedures, immunization information, summary of medical visit etc
- Laboratory results
- Insurance information
- Legal documents e.g. medical power of attorney
- List of healthcare provider details: name, contact, capacity
- Other information: lifestyle e.g. use of substances, dietary habits, religion etc.
Benefits of having an organized personal health record
- Saves time: You won’t have to answer the nurse’s questions all over again about your age and blah blah blah given most of the answers to their preliminary questions can be found in your records. This is even particular most important in case of an emergency.
- Saves money: A hospital book in some places is up to 2,000 XAF…imagine that! That could go a long way to pay for your medication or something else.
- Better diagnosis and follow up: Let’s face it, not many can afford a family doctor who seems to know your family health history at the tip of his fingers. We get to meet different doctors for different problems and these doctors rarely meet each other. Having a summary of your past medical history could help your new doctor make a better diagnosis (especially as contact time with doctor is so small…sometimes just 5 minutes!!!) Help your health care provider help you.
- Prevents errors: from medical to medication errors. Having your history and list of current medications can help your pharmacist know how best to counsel you on your medications.
- Saves your life: Having the right information at the right time could be a life saver.
- Makes you an active member of your healthcare team: This can go a long way to boost your confidence in the treatment you are receiving.
- Be a better caregiver: #Caregivergoals. Imagine accompanying your mom to the hospital and you can’t answer a single question about her medical information. No idea of the meds.
- Evidence in case of malpractice
- Justification for medical insurances
How to organize your personal health information
Medical records can be compiled by you from your numerous hospital visits, or written by a medical professional.
- You can use the regular hospital book. Have all lab results attached to the book as well.
- Try binders and folders
- Go digital: you could scan and keep on say google drive. There are also some apps that could help store your medical information. This is particularly helpful as you never know when you may have to get to a hospital and have no time to go back home for your hospital book.
- Have many copies: paper, digital, keep in different places (house, car, office, in your first aid kit etc)
- Make it readily accessible: you also want to give a copy to your care giver.
- Keep it complete and up-to-date.
- Keep a summary version with you always: Just like an identity card, an emergency health information card can come handy in an emergency…obviously! So keep one in your wallet or pocket. Download a free HILPharma emergency health information card below.
One last thing: It is not just about having all this information complete and readily accessible, you also need to be able to UNDERSTAND what it is in it.
It’s just fascinating how many patients take some medication for years and still do not know the name of the medications you are taking.
A friend of mine kept telling me he has 'typhoid and malaria' each time he goes to the hospital. I mean for about a year now I think he has had that diagnosis over 4 times from 4 different clinics. One day out of curiosity I ask him what medications has he been taking coz I am thinking it could be either inappropriate drugs or antibiotic resistance. My shock when he could not give the name of one single medication he has been taking. Yet here he is asking me to 'prescribe' yet another medication for 'typhoid' (yeah the quotes are coz I think even the diagnosis has a problem). There is not much I could do to help him given I did not have his hospital book (healthcare provider rants)
Please help us help you! Take charge, keep your health records organized. Postpone no more, start today. Don’t forget to download the free emergency health information card here.
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About The Author
Njonguo Belinda is a pharmacy student and administrative assistant.
Her passion for creative and informative writing led her into the blogging world where she blogs about her favorite niche Health. She also serves as an editor and holds several leadership positions in various organisations.
Thanks for this write up
Hahaha !!! Great one.. So true.. Thank you so much for such information. Alot of person’s need to hear this.. Keep it up N.B
The importance of health records all in one place cannot be overemphasized. I love the write up. Looking forward to more informative material like this
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