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Why Cancer Patients Should Get Organized

Network - Fall 2011


Janice Simon believes that cancer patients can — and should— get organized.

A project director in the Office of Academic Affairs in the Department of Faculty Development, Simon says that though collecting and sorting paperwork is time-consuming and may seem overwhelming, consolidating personal documents, health records and questions benefits both patient and physician by making appointments more efficient and productive.

So that they don’t feel overwhelmed, Simon recommends that patients take small steps toward organization. 

First, they should decide which documents to keep and discard,  dividing the process into less intimidating “chunks” to increase their chances of completing each task.

Patients can then use a three-ring binder with subject dividers to categorize documents according to type. Categories may include bills, insurance information or medical records.

Before the all-important appointment with a physician, patients can prepare an updated list of their medications, as well as any current research they’ve gathered on their cancer or condition.

“Medical visits run more smoothly when patients come prepared with a list of questions for their doctors, she says. “It can also lead to shorter and more productive appointments.”

Simon advises patients to carry a notebook with them wherever they go so that any time they think of a question, they can write it down to reduce the likelihood of forgetting to address it at their next visit.

Scanning and storing documents electronically can also help patients stay organized and avoid losing this crucial information in the event of a fire, flood or natural disaster.

Should patients need to evacuate or if their files are unexpectedly damaged, having records saved on a flash drive or laptop computer can keep patients organized and prepared, she says.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center