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  • Nikita Boston-Fisher

Are you taking notes?

How good is your memory? Do you recall the details of your last job interview? Have you ever been grocery shopping without a list only to return home to find you’re missing items? What about that time you heard something really interesting and didn’t bother to write it down because you swore to yourself that you’d remember, only to forget it an hour later?


That is why we should take notes. Note taking is not uncommon in our daily lives. Many people take notes:

  • to grocery shop

  • as a task list for their errands

  • in meetings at work to follow up on items

  • as a study sheet for an exam


However we don’t often think about applying that same strategy to our health, but we definitely should!


Here are some reasons to build the habit of note taking:


1. It helps you remember what happened during the appointment


What type of specialist did he say I needed to see? I’m supposed to follow up with him in how many months? How long did they say before the symptoms start to improve? Writing these things down will be helpful for you to remember and it will also be helpful when you’re giving your loved one a debrief on how the visit went. It has been established that writing helps us retain information and commit it to our memories better. Yes note I said writing and not typing. Writing is better than typing for memory retention and writing is also much easier to do at an appointment compared to using your phone. Not only will you get to write down what you heard properly but you’re less likely to fall victim to dreaded autocorrect. It won’t be a fun time when you get home trying to re-read what you hastily typed in your phone and seeing a random out of context word at a critical point in your sentence! Even if the only doctor you see is your family doctor once a year it may be helpful to write down what your vitals like weight and blood pressure were this year so you can compare it to next year.


2. It can remind your doctor or other doctors of what’s going on


If you have a complex medical situation or see various doctors, keeping notes is helpful to bridge the gap between those doctors. While this is 2020 not all electronic health records speak to each other nor do all doctors write summary notes to share with each other. That means that you are the common denominator! When you go from one specialist to the next you can help to provide context by saying, “Oh Dr. Smith took me off those medications and switched me to these instead because of XYZ reason” or “Dr. Jones had requested a CT scan two months ago, here is a copy of the results”. By keeping notes you can help to provide a lot of context which may otherwise be missing.


3. Copies can save time at appointment if things get lost


Here in Quebec, where I live, to see a specialist you need a referral and to have any testing or imaging done you need a requisition from the doctor. Those are often faxed over to the place they need to go but life happens. Sometimes they get “lost” and never make it. Sometimes the wait at that center is too long and you want to shop around for another. So always ask the receptionist for a copy so that you can have one for your records. Do the same for any blood work or imaging you get done, always ask for a copy so that you have one. You never know when you may need it and it’s much easier than trying to track this information down later. Doctors can move, close their practice, retire. You can move, or get sick on an out of town visit etc. Trust me, it’s just easier to have what you need when you need it without having to track stuff down, especially if it’s over the holidays. Life is unpredictable.


4. It shows that you are prepared and involved.


Healthcare should be collaborative, something that happens with you, not to you

You’re the only one that has your whole story, it is your body. Would you hire a contractor to work on your house and just walk away without monitoring the progress? Similarly you should be very much involved and at the table with your care to ensure that things are progressing as they should and making sense to you. Providers can’t help but be more attentive when they realize that you are serious and prepared.


I hope you’re now convinced that taking notes is something you should do for the care of you and your loved ones. Next time we'll talk about how to keep them organized! In the meantime, get a notebook and set it aside for your doctor visits.


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