Why you should keep a medical log — with free printable and spreadsheet!

by Janet Jay
Surface of a desk with a phone with a spreadsheet on it and a piece of paper with the free printable medical log. Text: Why you should keep a medical log-- free printable and spreadsheet

This free printable medical log is the quickest and easiest way of staying on top of contact with your medical team, especially for patients with complex health conditions. I’ll explain why you should keep track, then you can download a free printable medical log and/or spreadsheet and learn how to adapt them to the specific needs of your chronic pain, invisible illnesses, or complicated medical issues.

Vintage b&w drawn ad with woman on a couch and man seated in profile at table before her, text reads "are you a mind wanderer?" with circles about different distractions (what time is it? forgot to telephone, fill the inkstand, must finish this letter, when will frank return?) There is no "make a medical log" but there ought to be.
Panel from a vintage ad. (It me.)

Why You Should Keep a Medical Log

Seriously, you should be tracking contact with your doctors. I cannot tell you how many times over the last two decades it would have saved my ass to have a spreadsheet keeping track of when I tried to contact doctors or a printable medical log I could stick in a binder to drag with me to appointments.

I started out with forgetful genes– my mom is the master of the accidental “set it and forget it”– then added ADHD and two decades on and off a rotating cast of pain and psych meds. Sprinkle some medical cannabis on top and my recall ain’t great, y’all.

Meme which reads "me googling my adhd's impact on memory",  bottom panel reads "all the links being purple."

Because of this, I’m especially bad with names and dates and other stuff I find boring… like making medical calls! But I have a bunch of health problems and a bunch of specialists to juggle. Worse, I’m on controlled meds where any issue has the potential to become a clusterfuck. Hate them or not, I have to make these calls happen. (Note: I’m using ‘call’ because that’s my go-to. If you prefer to email or use a patient portal, just change it to ‘type’ in your mind.)

Don’t care, just want that medical log? Skip to the downloadable goodies

Meme with one cop car labeled "me" and many others, reading "general pain, forget everything, but you look fine to me, depression, fatigue, insomnia, crying in public, people who suggest yoga," and other health and medical issues common to people with chronic pain
Anybody else identify with this meme a bit too much?

LEARN TO SPEAK THEIR LANGUAGE

Here’s why you should keep track of your calls. Take a gander at these two messages. They both communicate the same basic set of information. However, the wording and details of the second one is apt to get you called back sooner.

Compare these two examples of phone calls to doctors:

Voicemail #1: Bad Example

“Hey Dr Pepper, I keep calling and calling you guys. It’s really important that I get Medication X before I run out. But y’all keep telling me different things about how to get a refill, the pharmacy too, & I’m super confused. I keep leaving messages. Maybe you’re not getting them? But I really need to speak to a human about this as soon as possible please.”

Voicemail #2: Good Example

“Hi! My name is Janet Jay and I’m calling regarding the situation with medication X. When I spoke to someone last Monday afternoon, I believe it was a PA named Susan, I was told that I would need to be seen at an actual appointment before you could write a prescription.

I know that Y can cause withdrawal if stopped suddenly and Susan couldn’t get me an appointment until October 12. So I called back on Tuesday morning and left a message on the nurse’s line about possibly getting a script to fill the gap between now and the appointment.

When I didn’t hear back, i left a second message on Wednesday at 12:15. I also had my pharmacy send in a refill request. Unfortunately they gave me some conflicting information about filling the med. Since I will be completely out of this medication on Monday morning, I’m starting to get nervous. I’d really appreciate if you could call me back ASAP so we can hopefully get this sorted soon.”

Screenshot of tweet by @i_zzzzzz reading 
DOCTOR: It says here you took 3 years off to "soak in tub"? 
ME: (pleasantly) Yes, due to my agonies
This message, sadly, would be less effective

More Info Is Better… To A Point

You have to learn to speak the language of medical staff, and that can take time. But a good rule of thumb is that the more specific information you can give, the better. (And this is true more widely too! It will help your doctor so much more if you say “my pain was a 7 last weekend and made me miss my cousin’s graduation” than “my pain has been really bad lately and I haven’t been able to get out much.”)

But use your judgment and think about what information you need to communicate. You don’t want to bury them in info that’s not crucial. Don’t show up with a  four-inch-thick medical binder expecting the doctor to be thrilled.

Want to learn what to say to get your meds refilled, even controlled substances? Here’s a free script to help you leave more effective messages and get that prescription filled ASAP.

Be Kind To Yourself

Above all, be kind to yourself. Phone anxiety is a real thing and can be really hard to conquer. Unfortunately, as a chronic pain patient I’ve found that leaving actual voice calls is often the best way to get the desired response. That sure doesn’t make it easier though.

"Nancy" comic strip reading "oh dear i hate to start that awful task, i get sick when i even think of it!" next panel: 2 hours later, final panel: 3 hours later." Can be applied to phone calls OR making a medical log!
“Nancy” by Olivia Jaimes (c) United Feature Syndicate

Describing your pain can be hard AF though– this post on pain scales delves into different types of pain scales, the best way to use them to communicate your pain with your doctor. (Also, funny memes.)

Get your printable medical log here!

Please still sign up for the mailing list, but I’m having trouble getting it to auto-send you the links, so for now, I’ll leave them here too.

GET IT NOW– after the new year I’ll be offering a whole downloadable medical binder, which this’ll be a part of, but if you like “free,” now is the time. (And if you grab it, please sign up for the mailing list!)

Click here for the customizable Gooogle Sheets spreadsheet.

If you have any questions or suggestions on something to add, don’t hesitate to reach out to pain.chronic.words.iconic@gmail.com . Hope this helps you!

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