Back in the old days when you got sick and ended up in the hospital, it was probably because your primary care doctor put you there. Boy, have times changed.
Nowadays you have one set of doctors who see you in the clinic when you’re doing well, another set of doctors who see you if you need emergency care, and yet another set of doctors who take care of you if you become hospitalized . Many times these “hospital” doctors know little, if anything, about you except what they observe right there on the spot and /or what they can read about you from prior admissions. If you receive your medical care at a huge teaching institution like I do, it gets even more impersonal, because you have multiple teams of student doctors and residents that rotate through the system a every 3 or 4 months. Chances are, you’re gonna see a different doctor every time you go in.
This system seems to work fine if you’re generally healthy and don’t need frequent medical care, but if you have a complicated medical history and don’t fit the mold ( like yours truly), then things can get a little frustrating…especially in the Emergency room.
That’s when I thought, there has to be a better way to communicate to medical staff who dont know you. So I came up with what I call the “patient intro letter”. More and more patients and/or their Physicians are writing these kinds of letters for their medically complex patients (not just severe asthmatics) to carry with them. If you ever end up having to go to an Emergency room ,the letter basically introduces you to the staff and provides the physician with some basic information about current health problems. It can save you from having to recite your entire medical history over and over again to people who don’t know you ( this is especially helpful, when you can”t breath). It can include valuable information on what seems to work best in treating your condition.
The latest rendition of this letter was just updated a few days ago and is the actual letter I bring with me to the ER . I update it anytime something changes, including new medications, treatments or new diagnosis. The key to making this kind of letter effective, is to keep it short, sweet and to the point. The nurses like these kinds of notes as much as the doctors do, because they can use them to relay info to the caregivers working the next shift.