August 17th, 2018

To Your Health: You are your own best advocate for your health

By Gillian Slade on January 29, 2018.

Even if you have had the same family doctor for years and years you should be compiling your own health record file.

It can be difficult to trace your really old medical records and a test result that may not have seemed very important at the time may be very useful later.

You are your own best advocate particularly when it comes to your health and the more organized you are the better. You will be able to keep track of dates of tests and when you should be following up with your doctor for the results of that test or a visit to a specialist.

If you feel you need a test more urgently it is up to you to ensure your family doctor or specialist understands why you feel that way. They may or may not agree with you but you need to make them aware of the concerns you have.

There are tragic situations in our community of people languishing in a murky world of physical pain and a sense of isolation. Being well organized can help you advocate for yourself and give you a sense of control.

It is a good practice, always, to ask your family physician for a copy of reports from tests or visit to a specialist. Sometimes there is a small fee to pay for the copies but it is worth it.

I speak to people regularly who only have a vague idea of what the results of a test were. Even if you feel you have understood the results that were read to you, I bet there will almost always be something you will not remember. Being able to refer to that report in your own home when you are not distracted can give you a new perspective. It also gives you an opportunity to look up the definition of a medical term that you don’t understand well.

Buy yourself a binder, it does not have to be expensive, and put everything related to your health in that binder. Place the content in date order. If you have multiple health issues perhaps some indexes would help further.

Become your own secretary. Write down dates of appointments, make notes after telephone conversations, and periodically ask your pharmacist to give you a printout of the medications you are on.

Make diary format notes about the symptoms you experience too.

When you read an article that directly relates to a health condition you have experienced put that in your file.

If you ever have a serious medical issue, being super organized and being able to quote dates, test results, delays, and telephone conversations will be super helpful to you and those trying to help you.

It will be virtually impossible to find anyone else who will have the understanding of your situation quite like you do.

Here’s to empowering yourself and here’s To Your Health.

To Your Health is a weekly column by Gillian Slade, health reporter for the News, bringing you news on health issues and research from around the world. You can reach her at or 403-528-8635.

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