When you make an appointment with the doctor, you’re usually so focused on treating something that’s wrong with you or getting the appointment over with that you don’t think about documenting your experience. But keeping good documentation is vital if you want to get the most out of your appointments, and make sure you’re protected against insufficient care.
There are several strong motivations for consistently documenting your healthcare appointments:
- Protection against medical negligence. Medical negligence could happen to anybody, resulting in a worsened condition or additional harm through no fault of your own. If you feel you’ve been the victim of medical negligence, it’s , but in almost all cases, it’s vital to prove causation—which can be tough to do. Taking notes and documenting all your appointments can arm you with the necessary information, should you ever be the victim of negligence.
- Reminders on instructions and advice. In most appointments, you’ll receive advice or instructions on what to do next. That might include lifestyle changes to reduce your vulnerability to different conditions, or specific points on how and when to take your medication. Even if you have a great memory, it’s possible to forget (or misremember) these instructions. Taking notes during your appointments and keeping a log of all your healthcare events can help you remember accurately.
- Symptom and condition tracking. Keeping notes on all your appointments is also valuable if you have a chronic or long-term condition and you want to track your progress. You can use your appointments and the time between appointments to acknowledge the severity and frequency of your symptoms, and see how you improve over time.
- Timing and scheduling. Depending on your age, it’s probably a good idea to see your doctor . Documenting your visits is a good way to make sure you hit those benchmarks; you can say with confidence when you last visited the doctor, and make a new appointment according to that information.
How to Document Your Appointments
Those motivations sound solid, but how are you supposed to document your visits?
Let’s start by defining the key points you should be documenting:
- Date and time of the visit. For scheduling purposes and for more detailed records, take note of the date and time of your visit. It’s a simple step, but an important one, especially if you’re going to be managing information from multiple appointments eventually.
- Location, practitioner, and overall experience. If you’re visiting multiple locations, or if you’ve seen multiple providers, it’s also important to note which people were taking care of you at this appointment. While you’re at it, write down notes about your overall experience—like whether the doctor was listening intently or rushing through their appointments for the day.
- What the doctor told you. Take notes on how the conversation between you and your doctor went, including which details you provided to them, and what they responded with in kind. The doctor’s disposition and advice can play a major role in your improvement (or lack thereof).
- Follow-up items and instructions. , so try to write them down or record them as accurately as possible so you can refer to them in the future as if the doctor just told them to you. You should also be able to refer to this if you follow the instructions exactly but still see no improvement.
As for how you record those details, you have several options:
- Notes. Sometimes, the easiest way to document your experience is also the best. Take notes about your appointment when you schedule it and as you participate in it. Your doctor will likely appreciate the extra effort.
- Recordings. As long as you have permission to do so, consider recording your conversation with your doctor. This makes it much easier to revisit any instructions or advice you receive, and serves as practically flawless evidence if you ever have to use it in a medical negligence claim.
- Medical records. You’re allowed to at any time. Do so if you’d like to get information as the hospital or practice recorded it.
- Journaling. For more details as you progress through various stages of your condition and health, consider keeping a journal. You can track not only your appointments and your symptoms, but your subjective feelings on those events and symptoms as well.
Use some or all of these options to keep track of your healthcare visits and treatments. It may seem like a pain at the moment, taking more time than it’s worth, but you’ll definitely see the benefit someday—whether you need to take action on an instance of medical negligence, or you’re just interested to see what kind of progress you’ve made.