The New President's First Official Act
Done With Self-Improvement

Excellent Tool for Doctor Visit


For good reasons that are not pertinent to this post, in November I fired my doctor. Five or six weeks later, after an hour with my new primary care physician, I was pleased to feel that I had found someone I can work with and whom I like.

But when I got home, I realized I had not mentioned two or three issues that while far from being critical were still things he should know and that should be in my record.

I was somewhat chagrined since before that first meeting, I had worked for a couple of days to prepare a list of items and had believed I had done a good job. So as soon as I got home, I started a running list in a computer file that I can keep up like a grocery list for the next appointment.

Since then, however, I have found an outstanding online tool from the National Institute of Aging. The NIA is division of the National Institutes of Health which for decades has funded internal and external research into many aspects of growing old.

The external program funds research and training at universities, hospitals, medical centers, and other public and private organizations nationwide. (All this is administered under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services so we will need to keep a sharp eye on its funding and other issues once the new secretary is approved by Congress which, unfortunately, appears to be Georgia Representative Tom Price.)

I've used the NIA's extensive website for a long time but somehow missed the section I'm here to tell you about today titled, Talking to Your Doctor: A Guide for Older People.

It is amazingly thorough and informative with a long list of chapters to help you collaborate with your physician and be a full participant in your care:

”In the past, the doctor typically took the lead and the patient followed. Today, a good patient-doctor relationship is more of a partnership,” states the first sentence of the section.

“You and your doctor can work as a team, along with nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers, to solve your medical problems and keep you healthy.”

There follow such chapters as:

Choosing a Doctor You Can Talk To
How Should I Prepare...for an Appointment
Making Decisions with Your Doctor
Discussing Sensitive Subjects

And eight more.

Throughout all the the 12 chapters are useful tips – on giving information, for example, on asking questions or providing definitions you might not know like what “board certified” means. And that barely scratches the surface.

The guide was first published in 2010 and updated in April 2016. It is a definitive guide for all things related to visits with your physician(s).

Today, however, I want to show you why I decided to devote an entire post to this guide. The Institute has created a three-part worksheet to fill in before your appointment with prompts that help ensure that you don't forget anything and that you can print to take with you.

The first section asks you to list your concerns.

The second section includes changes since your last visit, your diet, medications and lifestyle; your thoughts and feelings; and everyday living – injuries, daily activists, exercise and more.

The third section asks you to list the details of all the medications you use.

It is incredibly thorough and a professional can skim through the worksheet in a few minutes saving a lot of time that then can be used for face-to-face examination and discussion.

Here is what it looks like:

NIH Worksheet FINAL

Although it is titled for elders, I think people of all ages can benefit from this. Here are some of the links you need:

Main page, the starting place

The Worksheets

Section on additional resources

If you want a hard copy, you can print out each section or, on the left side of every page is a link to a PDF version that you can save to your computer or print.

Whether you just hang on to the URL, keep an electronic copy on your computer or print it, there are not many instruction manuals in life as good as this 44-page guide.


Since my illness two years ago I've kept notes about all things health-related that the doctors might need to know, and for my own reference. Just the date and a line or two about anything that seems noteworthy. And also a list of all my meds and supplements, which has gotten quite extensive. I keep both lists on my computer and on my phone (they synch automatically using Evernote), for reference anytime, anywhere. I also keep notes on things I want to ask the doctor at my next visit. The most useful part of all this is the drug list on the phone. When the nurses ask, I just hand them the phone and they can easily crosscheck their list and mine.

What an excellent resource. For years, I have made a list of major illnesses, surgeries, chronic problems, meds, etc. to give to new MDs on an initial visit. It also helps in filling out those sometimes lengthy questionnaires we encounter on a first visit.

The form you found collects all the data that could possibly be needed and is a helpful aid to both the MD and to me. And that's on subsequent visits as well as the first one.

It's a help to anyone at any age, but especially to those of us who, having attained a towering number of years, have more to remember.

Thank you.

I've asked my primary care doc if she knew of any mobile apps just like this, she said not that she was aware. Somebody is missing an opportunity here! Not sure how many elders are into writing apps, but there has got to be some millenial yummy mummy out there that has done something for her most magnificnt offspring.

I take photos with my phone camera, of my prescription bottles each time i pick up a refill. This way I/health care professional can see prescribing doc, date of Rx, and my pharmacy info.

I also keep an ongoing list in my notes app in my phone, so I can add questions, symptoms, etc when ever they spring up, no matter where I am. Most phones come with a note app already installed.

I've also found using my doc's interactive "portal" very helpful. She posts all my med records there, which triggers an email notice to me. I can then log on and review my bloodwork, flu vaccine, etc, schedule appointments, and send her questions such as "Can I get my bloodwork for my pre-op physical done at your office?"

She has said that "the government"(Medicare/cade?) Requires that at least 5% of her patients use the portal, so I imagine a good number of providers have this tool in place.

Thanks for the article Ronni. I have the patient portal and I can easily check my blood tests and compare them to the last year. I'm not sure if everyone can do this or if only a few doctors use it?

I used to have a medical id necklace that has a website URL on it. I filled out a form with important info, like the fact I am very allergic to medicine. It was a service I paid for. I like having it available since we traveled often.

Thanks for this resource, Ronni. I too have a list on my computer with my name and contact info, Primary Care Doc, pharmacy, prescriptions and OTC meds, and all my surgeries by date, most recent first. I did this first for my own benefit so I wouldn't have to fill out all that info at every doc visit, but recently docs are telling me they wish all patients did this.

Now, thanks to PiedType, I'll put at least some of this on my cell too.

Thanks so much for this. I have added both the Main Page and the Worksheets page to my "Medical and Insurance" bookmark folder.

For years I have kept an Excel spreadsheet of doctor appointments, tests, hospitalizations, etc., that also includes mileage so that I can readily total the mileage to use for tax purposes. Because I have data clear back to the early 1990s, I can also check when questioned about when I had a certain test, study, etc.

What is my best resources when I visit the doctor is my Excel spreadsheet of my meds--current, discontinued, and also a list of surgeries. I always print out an extra copy to hand to the nurse who checks me before the doctor comes in. This list is updated as needed and includes columns for name (with generic listed, too), why I take it, when I started, dosage, how often to take, and doctor who prescribed. I take a ton of meds for my MS and related problems,, allergies, etc., so having this detailed list is necessary.

The list of surgeries goes back to my tonsils removal in the 1950s. I list what kind of surgery, surgeon, where done, and date.

I find that lists of info saved on my computer to use as needed has been one of the best things I have done. As I age and begin to forget stuff, the spreadsheets help tremendously.

Love this! Thanks Ronni.

Wow, what a well-organized group! I'm no longer the detail-oriented person I was during my 57 years in the workforce. Fortunately I belong to an HMO and get all my care from one entity. My entire medical history, including Rx's, is at the fingertips of my doctor and any other provider I see--in fact, my doc's interaction with the computer takes up much of the time during an appointment.

Even so, on the rare occasions when I've needed to see a specialist, I've sometimes been asked to provide basic info that is clearly already in the record. I do keep a list on my computer of the Rx meds I take, but I don't keep paper copies of medical data since it's available online. As with most things in life, there's an upside and a downside to electronic medical records.

My Doctor's practice utilizes a software app called "My Chart". It allows you to look at your history, see test results, make appointments, etc. It also has a messaging service which would work well in a situation like yours where the patient forgot to mention something. You could just send the Doctor an email so it would be on record.

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