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Institute for Patient-Centered Design, Inc.

Design with Patients in Mind

Be Ready!

Review helpful tips submitted by a patient on how to be prepared to get the most out of your healthcare experience.

Pack a Bag

A roommate that I had in the hospital once told me that she had a bag packed that she kept in her car at all times. I thought this was a great idea for a person with a chronic illness and I wondered why I hadn't thought of it myself.

Now, I keep a bag packed in my trunk in case of an emergency visit to the hospital. Inside the bag, I include:

  • a journal of my medical history
  • a photo copy of my insurance cards
  • a change of under garments
  • a pair of slippers
  • nail clippers
  • a trial size of deodorant
  • a magazine or favorite book
  • a sweater (waiting rooms tend to be too cold for me)

I take the first item, my journal, to every medical appointment. This is just a blank book that I purchased for a few dollars. It is compact enough to fit into my purse, and it has a slot to keep a pen handy. Inside, I have listed the name, address, and phone number of each of my physicians. I have also included the phone number of my emergency family contact, and an updated list of my prescriptions.

Each time that I visit the doctor, I pull out this journal while I wait and jot down the date, name of the doctor, the reason for my visit, and any questions that I have for the doctor. Once inside the exam room, I record the information that the nurse takes of my vital signs. I write down my blood pressure, pulse, weight, and body temperature. (The nurse writes it down. Why shouldn't I?) When the doctor arrives, I read my questions and record brief notes on the doctor's comments and/or advice. That's it. All of this information usually fits on one page. After I check out, I record the names of any new prescriptions that I have received as well as any information regarding follow-up appointments.

In case of an emergency, my journal can provide key information regarding my medical history, even if I am unable to talk. It also helps me to remember my medical history when I communicate with others in stressful situations in which I would have otherwise forgotten.  

-Lynn Smith, Patient