Health Organizing Tips (HOTips)

There are three basic states of health we flow in and out of throughout our lives; wellness, acute illness and adaptation to a chronic disease (diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, etc.). We hope to maintain a state of well-being for long periods of time, but inevitably most of us will be confronted with the other two conditions.

Knowledge is power, and information is very strong medicine. Knowing how to acquire, understand, organize and appropriately act upon medical information will lead to taking charge of your health: You will maintain wellness longer, navigate acute illness more effectively, and negotiate chronic illness with much less stress.

Throughout our lives we accumulate volumes of health-related information, without delineating what is most important, when that data might be useful and how we could quickly access it should the need arise. If you maintain everything in a central place it will be much easier to find and share information when necessary. In other words, Compile it and file it.

Lynda’s newspaper column, Mom’s Rx, provides health related information and strategies on how to use this knowledge to your best advantage. It appears weekly in the Albany Times Union, a Hearst publication. It can also be found by logging on to then scrolling down to “Health Organizing” to view a number of recent columns.

Here is a sampling of some Health Organizing Tips from recent columns:

The Doctor’s visit
When preparing your list of symptoms, use as much detail as possible. An accurate diagnosis often depends on the completeness of what you report. List everything – let the doctor decide what is relevant.

Support Groups
The “Group Room” is a nationally syndicated radio call-in talk show about cancer; billed as the world’s largest cancer support group. It airs every Sunday on XM satellite radio from 4-6 pm EST and 1-3pm PST. Go to for local radio stations and other valuable information.

Giving Medications to Kids
Target, CVS and Rite Aid Drugs now provide a medication flavoring service for a fee of approximately $3 per prescription. It is called Flavor Rx. Your child can select from a variety of available flavors to make taking their medication a little more palatable.

Emergency Room Visits
The ideal patient brings with them to the emergency room their complete medical history, including blood type, allergies, an updated list of medications and contact information for doctors who treat them. Click on Med Info To Go, the complete medical chart that fits in your wallet, for ordering information.

Your advocate should be very organized, comfortable around hospitals and doctors, and able to be a calming force in times of crisis.

Choosing a Hospital
This year sixteen hospitals that appeared on the US News & World Report’s list of America’s Best Hospitals earned “Honor Roll” status. This means they achieved a high ranking in no fewer than six specialties. The top five hospitals are:

1) Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, MD
2) Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
3) UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA
4) Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH
5) Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA

Medical Tests
When analyzing blood test results remember that testing labs use reference ranges to determine what your results mean. These ranges should be used as guidelines but what may be normal for one person might not be for another. Age, sex, general health, weight and race may all have impact on these results. Also remember that established guidelines vary from lab to lab. Let your doctor help interpret the results.

Managing Your Medications
Never leave medicines in an automobile where heat can rapidly destroy the drug. Periodically check expiration dates on your medicine bottles and flush all expired medicines if you have children or pets that might get into wastebaskets.

Choosing a Doctor
To find out if a doctor has been the subject of any disciplinary action, go to Operated by the Federation of State Medical Boards, this site includes comprehensive information on disciplinary action taken including, but not limited to, license revocation, probation and suspensions. It notes the date of the action and the reasoning. There is a fee for each physician inquiry.

Web Research
If a research study is referenced, see if it appears on "Pubmed." Pubmed is a site maintained by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). It allows public access to NLM's Medline database which house articles from 4,500 journals from as far back as 1966. Go to to search the database. If the study is not there, it probably was not published in a peer-review journal.

Preventing Medical Errors in Children
I have always kept a medical chart on my daughter at home. In addition to accumulated copies of test results, blood work, treatment protocols and research information, I kept a log of her actual response to treatment. This is not as overwhelming as it initially sounds.

On lined paper I would jot down the date, the issue and information in bullet form to summarize what was going on. For instance;

Leslie has had stomach pains. Took Biaxin for 5 days - no better
Switched to Cipro, 250mg 4 times/day she felt better after 2 days

What results from this over time is a compilation of her entire health history which I can access much more quickly than the doctor. Compile the information and file it in a section of your health care binder designated for your child. Always remember that the doctor has hundreds of patients and you have the ability to narrowly focus on your child or children. Be an active participant in the medical care of your children.