I was recently diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Lucky me – I live in central Connecticut – the epicenter for Lyme disease. My treatment consists of a significant regiment of medications and supplements that I take 3 to 4 times a day. To make matters a bit more complex, these medications and supplements may be changed, added, and subtracted as my treatment progresses. Initially, I was very overwhelmed as I tried to organize and manage my treatment. As a technologist, my predisposition was to find a simple solution to manage this complex task. Simply put, I needed to be reminded of what I need to take at the time that I need to take it.
I live in a world where I have easy access to computers, online calendars, and smart phones. I currently use these tools to manage my personal and business life - much of which centers on my calendar. So, I set out to adapt these same tools to my medication/supplement challenge. I was easily able to create a working solution using my preferred tool: Microsoft Outlook, Apple iCal, Microsoft Exchange Server, and an Apple iPhone. However, this solution can be easily created using many other popular software tools found on PCs, Macs, and the Internet. Several free calendars are available from Google, Yahoo, Windows Live, and others that can readily synchronize with a number of popular smart phones. As well, not everyone needs to use a smartphone. For many, just using an online calendar with reminders will be a significant enough improvement.
Setting up the Calendar
While it’s not well known, most calendar programs support the idea of using multiple calendars. For example, you can have a personal calendar, business calendar, and in this case, a medication calendar. Several calendar programs also allow you to have a calendar with others. In a business, this may be useful for booking a meeting room. A family may use a shared calendar to manage everyones' summer schedule. I suggest using a separate calendar from the one that you may already be using for your personal and/or business information. In my case, I added a new calendar in Microsoft Outlook that is called Ian’s Medication Calendar.
Let’s say that you need to take 6 medications in the morning, 4 at noon, 5 at dinner, and 8 before bed. To start, create an appointment in your medication calendar on whatever day is currently is. For the title of the appointment, input the names of your 6 morning medications and their dosages, or as I do, the number of each pill that I take. I list them all separated by commas. Let’s say that you need to take these medications around 8 in the morning. So, set an appointment time at 8am and give the appointment a length of 2 hours. The reason for the 2 hour duration is so you have a large enough appointment block available to show the entire list of medications. Next, set the appointment as reoccurring (or repeating) for as long as you will be taking this mediation. If it’s open ended, simply set the end date for sometime in the future. I typically set mine for around 6 weeks as I see my doctor around every 6 weeks. Most calendar programs have the option to select that days that the appointment repeats on – everyday, every other day, selected days, etc. This is very useful if you need to take one medication on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays rather than every day of the week. The last step is to create a reminder for the appointment so that you will be notified when it’s time to take your medication. The final step is to repeat this process so that all of your medications and schedule times are listed throughout the day and by using repeating settings for as long as you need. You now have a calendar listing all of your medications, the times that they need to be taken, and a reminder system. You can use your computer or simply print out your calendar in a weekly view to have a schedule that you can carry with you. As your medications and supplements change, you can simply change the appointment title and repeating information as needed.
Figure 1 is a screen shot of my medication calendar in Microsoft Outlook.
Figure 2 is a screen shot of my appointment settings for my morning medications in Microsoft Outlook. You can see my medication/supplement list in the Subject field.
Figure 3 is a screen shot of my appointment reoccurrence settings for my morning medications in Microsoft Outlook. Here I can set the length of the appointment so that it displays correctly and I can set the reoccurrence to daily and for 6 weeks long.
Integrating the Calendar with a Smart Phone
If you’re like me, you may be out and about during the day, and need to be reminded to take your medications. If your calendar is based on a calendar on web, it is often easy to add it to your smart phone. I use Microsoft Exchange Server with Microsoft Outlook to do this. As I mentioned earlier, many Internet-based calendars can easily synchronize with popular smart phones. If you don’t know how to setup this part, many Internet calendars provide help and instructions or you may want to contact your smart phone vendor for technical assistance. Since I already had my calendar integrated with my smart phone, my new medication calendar magically showed up on my iPhone as soon as I created it.
Figure 4 shows my 2 calendars on my iPhone.
Figure 5 shows Ian’s Medication Calendar on my iPhone.
Figure 6 shows my business calendar on my iPhone.
Figure 7 shows my Medication Calendar and Business Calendar overlapping on my iPhone.
In closing, I offer to you a simple solution to a somewhat daunting task. My approach is one that uses widely available computer-based tools. You can even take this approach further. As some of you may know, several technology companies are working on tools to help manage our medical information. I'm referring to significant companies like Microsoft and Google. Image if your doctor had access to your medication calendar. During your office visit, your doctor could update your calendar so any changes would be available immediately. By doing this, we could reduce mistakes, create excellent records of medication changes and everyone would benefit.
If this post was helpful to you, please click on Comments below and leave a comment.Contact Info: email@example.com