If you’re dealing with cancer, you know there’s a lot of treatment information to gather and track. It’s easy to become overwhelmed. How can you figure out what information you really need — and how do you organize it all?
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Here’s a step-by-step plan to help you create a system for keeping it organized. Once you have your system in place, it’s amazing how much it help dampen stress.
1. Choose your method(s) for recording the information
Will you take notes on paper? In a phone or on a tablet? Both?
Some people are only comfortable keeping information in paper, notebooks and folders. Others might prefer technology. Powerful devices, such as smart phones, are portable too, which allows us to take them to appointments. Many of us, though, are still apt to use a mix of both electronic and paper.
However you choose to record information will probably impact how you put your organizational system together.
2. Decide what information you need at your fingertips
Of all the information you’ve gathered so far, decide what you need to have most readily available, e.g., information you might need to take to your appointments. On the other hand, what information can you set aside as long as you can locate it easily if you need it?
3. Create categories of information
To help with #2, you can break the information into categories, and then decide how to handle each category. Buckets of information can include: personal health information, schedules and contact information, insurance and billing information, articles and research, and legal documents.
4. Use this guide to figure out what specifically goes into each category
Below, find suggested lists of information that can fit into common categories and keep you organized:
Personal health information:
- Lab work and test results (ask for copies)
- Updated list of medications (prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins/supplements). Each time you see a doctor, they will likely ask to review what medications you are taking.
- Treatment records, including any surgeries, radiation therapy (start and stop dates) and chemotherapy (drugs, dosages, start and stop dates)
Schedules and contact information:
- Doctors’ appointments
- Treatment appointments
- Personal schedule
- Important phone numbers (contact numbers for your healthcare team, your pharmacy number)
Insurance and billing information:
- Insurance policies and other insurance records
- Explanation of benefit records
- Medical bills and receipts, including prescription receipts (these are helpful at tax time)
- Advance directives, living will, and healthcare power of attorney forms
- Will, living trust and guardianship papers
You can also create a category for articles and research. This would include educational information about your diagnosis and treatment that you would like to keep.
5. Develop an organizational scheme
Now that you can visualize the categories of information you will accumulate, you can start to develop and organizational scheme that fits your style.
You might separate binders per category and/or scan all documents and store them in a cloud-based storage application so you have them readily available anywhere.
Be sure and apply your organizational skills to the results of your internet searches by creating a bookmark with subfolders.
— From the book The Complete Cancer Organizer by Jamie L. Schwachter, BSN, MSN, CNP and Josette M.Snyder, BSN, MSN, AOCN