Can you name all of your child’s medications, their doses and side effects off the top of your head? How about listing his physicians – and their phone numbers?
With all the different health care providers, medications, allergies and insurance rules that play a role in treating juvenile arthritis, it's easy to get overwhelmed. But there are ways to stay organized and sane without micromanaging every detail of your child’s life.
According to Liz Smith, a veteran juvenile arthritis parent and Juvenile Arthritis Alliance volunteer, staying organized is not only essential to managing your child’s care, it also keeps your child’s medical team running like a well-oiled machine.
“Having organized medical records at home allows you to easily access all of the information you need for the different physicians and other health professionals who make up your child’s medical team,” Smith says. “It also makes life easier should you need to change or add members to your team.”
When it comes to organization, you already know what’s in it for you – sanity and peace of mind. What’s in it for your child? “Staying organized helps with a child’s compliance to their treatment plan,” says Lawrence Zemel, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Hartford. “Compliance leads to better outcomes for your child.”
Wondering how to get started? Here are some tips on the best ways to get organized.
Make Organization a Family Affair
A good rule of thumb is to make sure you’re not the only one who knows your system. Involve your child, spouse or other family members in the record keeping as much as possible. It’s especially important for your child to be involved once she starts going into the exam room alone. This will help develop her independence and self-management skills.
Create a Binder
It's much easier to keep medical records in order when they’re all in one place. To ensure portability and organization, use a three-ring binder with dividers and plenty of space to grow.
If you’re having trouble deciding what’s important to keep, Smith suggests keeping and filing your child’s lab reports, immunization records, X-rays and other imaging reports and physical and occupation therapy reports. Also, keep notes from your child’s medical team, as well as a current chart of medications, prescription and supplemental. Include information such as dosage, reorder point, cost and side effects.
You'll also want to keep surgical records, insurance information and a running list of questions you might have for your medical team. One of the most important things you should keep is a current list of your child’s health care providers, along with their addresses and phone numbers.
Make Copies of Everything
When it comes to keeping medical records, one of the best rules to abide by is to make several copies of everything. Throughout your child’s life, you'll be asked to provide copies of records for various reasons, especially as they grow and become more involved in activities such as church, sports, theater or volunteering. While you can always request copies from providers when you need them, Smith discourages repeated requests to obtain records.
“There are usually charges for obtaining copies of records,” she says. “It can get quite expensive. Keeping copies saves the time and expense of going to and from the doctor’s office every time you need a copy.”
Smith also suggests storing these copies in a secure place like a fireproof safe. Better yet, scan them into the computer, burn them onto a CD and store it in a secure place. If your child spends a lot of time at a relative’s or friend’s house, make a version of the binder for the person in charge there, and include a medical emergency permission form. Any time you aren't accessible and someone else is responsible for your child, you'll need a signed permission form to permit medical treatment for your child in case of an emergency.
Stick With It
To avoid document pile-up, try to take time once or twice a week to copy and file any new paperwork. Doing a little bit of filing at a time makes it easier and making organization a habit will make it less time-consuming.
“Keep up with your records on a regular basis so that it doesn’t become an overwhelming task,” Smith says. “It just makes life easier for you and your child.”