Rebecca’s Amazing System for Organizing Medical Appointments

by Rebecca Weger

I plan for my appointments electronically using Microsoft OneNote on both my computer and my phone.  OneNote is essentially a collection of virtual binders. I have a binder titled “Health,” and one of the sections in “Health” is “Doctors and Records.”

Plan out my agenda:

Several days before my medical appointment, I open up OneNote on my computer. In “Doctors and Records” I add a new page. I title it with a consistent naming convention, using the date of the appointment: “Year.month.date Doctor Name”.

Once I have my page, I start writing my agenda and talking points. These are the most important points for me to consider:

  • What is it that I’m hoping to get out of this appointment?
  • What is my status update since my last appointment?
  • What are the most important topics to cover?
  • What questions do I need answered?
  • Is there something I keep meaning to tell her but never get to?
  • What information does the doctor need to know?
  • Is there data I need to share?
  • Are there actions I’m asking the doctor to take?

I start writing an outline, and fill in notes as bullet points so I don’t forget anything.

Consider other data or documents:

If there is data I need to share, I collect that and organize it. For example, I track certain bits of health data every day in a spreadsheet. I might need to summarize that data to share, such as how many days was I in bed since the last appointment? Days I had headaches? When did I start a certain medication?

Next I review and update my medication and supplement list. I keep that list in Google Drive. You’d think it would also be in OneNote, but it isn’t. And that’s because I want key contact people, like the person who is my health care proxy, to be able to have access to it if something comes up. Since it’s in Google Drive, I can share the folder and file with whomever I want. And I can also access it from my phone anywhere I have an internet connection. I keep the last update date on the top of the list so that it’s easy to know if it is current.

I consider whether there are any other documents that I might need to bring and share. Was there paperwork from the doctor’s office? Do I have a report to share? Did I read something I need them to look at?

Make sure I cover everything:

At this point I go to my planner. I hand write the list of everything I thing I need to take with me to the appointment, usually on the day before.

Then I go about my life.  As I think of other things, I just go back and add them to my agenda and notes.

I refine the order of items on my agenda if needed, focusing on the most important at the top. That way, if there isn’t time for everything, I know I’ve gotten the most important bits. Some of my doctors use electronic communication for follow up. If this is for a doctor who does, I’ll put things at the lowest priority that I know could be dealt with that way after the appointment.

Assembling my files:

On the day indicated on my planner, usually the day before the appointment, I print out all necessary documents, including my agenda. For some items, I might print off two copies – one for me and one for the doctor. I do this with my medication list. I put them in a file folder or on a clipboard, and put them in my bag with a pen.

At the appointment:

On the day of my appointment, I arrive early so I’m not rushed. When I get to the office or exam room, I set myself up so that I have easy access to my agenda and any other documentation.

  • I follow my agenda as closely as I can.
  • I check off items as I go.
  • I take notes.
  • If anything requires follow up or next steps from me, I write an asterisk next to it.
  • At the end of each topic, I reflect back what I think I heard if it was a complicated conversation. I ask clarifying questions if there is anything I don’t understand.
  • If a doctor proposes a new test, I make sure I know what it is for. What will it tell us? What will we do with the information? Are those next steps things that I’m interested in or will be useful?
  • If the conversation is moving too quickly, I let the doctor know I need a minute to catch up in order to make sure I took good notes.

When I leave the office, I make sure the next appointment is in my electronic calendar. I take the visit summary paperwork.

After the appointment:

  • The next day, I look over my notes. If there are items with asterisks, I copy them into my planner as tasks.
  • I go into OneNote on my phone, back to the agenda and notes page I wrote for the appointment. I take a photograph of my notes, and insert it into the page.
  • I take the visit summary paperwork and the hardcopy of my notes and put them in a folder established for that doctor or illness or specialty.
  • If I forgot something, or have a follow up question, I send an electronic message to the doctor through the portal.

Learn More

A guide to surviving doctor’s visits with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: How to Go To The Doctor Without Crashing