My Blood, My Results: Am I Right?

I am one of those people that has blood work done at least once a month. I have to say it doesn’t bother me (I watch) and we usually don’t have trouble getting a vein. Regardless of whether it’s easier for me or not, I still dread going. Maybe it’s my aversion to rigid authority … the appointments are set with a 1-2 day window prior to the actual appointment date or the entire month is skipped. It could be that at least once a month I have a cold. Or, it could be that I just hate waiting for my test results.

When a good friend brought it to my attention that I didn’t have to wait for my lab test results, I was stunned. Now, this may not be news to some people, I realize; and, others may not care much about it, but I have to tell you I was both intrigued and peeved at the same time. I was intrigued about the possibilities this information has for me and yet peeved because I want to know why I haven’t heard about this before?

Again, this could just be my expectation that simply because the test was ordered for my health, using my blood, that I would have a right to see the results in their entirety, when they are ready. My interest in getting the information quickly overcame such resistance.

To date, feedback on my test results is only given in one of two ways: when I go in for my semi-annual appointment or if there is a problem. To me, that is an unacceptable number of test results that I don’t hear about; and not just because I feel it is my right to have access to my results.

Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) is a screening marker for inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis because it measures the interaction of red blood cells with inflammatory proteins. The higher the number, the more active my disease, and the more active my disease, the more likely I will have to increase the amount of medication I take. You can see why that would be important to me.

Of course, my rheumatologist will call me if and when we need to take action so does getting access to this information really change anything? That’s a really good question.

At the end of the day, it’s my information, my health. I pay the consequences and carry the mantle of responsibility for managing my disease with the resources that I can access. It is all about a sense of control over something I have so little control over. I don’t control when the appointments are, I don’t control how often I get to see my specialist, I don’t get to control my inflammation, fatigue or pain. If I get access to a little more information so I know what’s up ahead of me, then why wouldn’t I do so?

I don’t want to wait until my rheumatologist calls me to tell me “we” have a problem. To me, just waiting in the darkness as a passive participant is no longer an option. Getting access to my test results has everything to do with actively taking control and responsibility for my life.

What am I doing for myself this month? I’m checking out Dynacare Plus to get access to my lab results because it’s my blood, my results and I have a right to access it when I want to.

So, when you ask if it matters that I can access my entire blood test result when I want, I respond: Damn right it matters.

Break Your New Year’s Resolution Yet?

It’s not just that New Year’s resolutions are so easy to break; it’s that they’re so easy to make. Do more <good habit> or do less <bad habit>, am I right?

We all start out hopeful and full of energy, or is it just the sugar-high from Christmas? Regardless, if you’re like me, we really do start out with the best of intentions. And, if you’re also like me, it doesn’t last long. The disappointment, frustration, and disgust, however, do …

Which brings me to what I do this time of year: pick my annual theme. It works best if it is a single word or phrase. A theme works because it gives focus to connect actions and intentions all year long. Choices become clearer; as do consequences, but without the same guilt of breaking a resolution.

If at all possible, make your theme a verb. It gives you momentum. My theme for 2017 is “flex”. I’m not talking muscles, exactly. Although, now that I think about it … it could.

I want to push my boundaries, my capacities, and my degree of tolerance (and acceptance) for change. Sounds like a lot, but when I wrap all I want for myself into “flex”, suddenly it becomes clearer what I should do each day.

It also means that when my husband has some cool technology that I “really have to try” I don’t throw something at him. Instead, I’ll ask him why and be genuinely curious.

Who knows? I may actually like trying new things? I mean, I doubt it, but I’m ready for 2017 with a theme that promises to be an adventure.

Credit and thanks to Lisa Martin (personal coach) for the notion of a New Year’s theme.

There’s Gotta Be An App For That

No doubt about it, we’ve come a long way from a few years ago when I was asked each and every time for a list of my medications and each one was written down by hand and later added to my paper chart. Today, my physician consults a computer screen.

I’ll admit it, when I’m asked for this information, I look amongst “reminders” of things on my iPhone; along with a book I want to read, the telephone number of a tailor my daughter-in-law recommended, and the items I’m getting my husband for Christmas.

The only redeeming feature is that at least it isn’t on paper, I suppose. Oh, and it’s easily accessible. Sort of …

The disturbing part for me about confirming and updating this list is the underlying fact that whichever physician you are seeing at that moment doesn’t actually know what other physicians have prescribed for you. That means I have to be very certain I keep my list updated; which brings me to the idea of a medication master list.

This simply cannot be a novel idea.

As it turns out, there are a number of apps for just this purpose. However, it’s curious that patient uptake has been relatively poor which leads me to ask why. From this patient’s perspective I’m just not impressed enough by an app that keeps a list for me when I’m feeling like this should already be information I, and all my health professionals, should have access to; I didn’t say it was a great reason, and yet it seems I’m not alone in this resistance.

Here’s something to consider: in addition to the medications I’m taking can you give me access to my blood work reports, bone density scan report, and so on? It often takes more than “isn’t this cool or convenient?” to motivate a patient to try something new. Do you know how hard it is to convince ourselves to do something because it is good for us?

Another angle to consider is setting up a medication master list for patients. I’m talking about the convenience of walking into my pharmacist and having the app installed, prescriptions loaded, even a quick tutorial on how to use it. My pharmacist already has a list of my medications (assuming all prescriptions are filled there) and each time I pick up new prescriptions these can be added to the medication master list.

So maybe it isn’t just that there has to be an app for keeping track of my medications. No question, there is resistance on the part of the patient. I don’t presume to have all the answers, but I’m motivated to figure this out. After all, this is my life, and someone has to get this medication master list figured out … even if I don’t have access to it yet.