Whether or not you carry your personal health information on a flash drive or make use of some other system, you can take advantage of the electronic records that are kept by virtually all pharmacies these days. First, by buying all of your drugs from one pharmacy, you can benefit from the pharmacy’s ability to quickly check your prescription records for potential drug interactions or allergy issues. Second, if you get your drugs from a pharmacy that’s part of a nationwide chain, it’s likely that a pharmacist at any of its locations can access your prescriptions from the company’s central database. This can be a huge help if you’re traveling and get partway across the country before realizing that you’ve left behind something vital (such as insulin) that you can only get with a prescription. And it can be a lifesaver in the event of a natural disaster that requires you to leave your home.
If you’re traveling and don’t normally get your medicines at a pharmacy with a national presence, or you’re going to an area that doesn’t have the chain pharmacy you use, follow the old-fashioned method: Take paper copies of your prescriptions with you.
If you have a computer, there’s no need to take a ragged, blood-spotted record of your blood glucose measurements with you when you see your doctor: Just upload the data from your meter to a computer program provided by your meter manufacturer or available online. You can then print out charts or graphs to bring to your doctor. Many online programs even let you give your doctor access to your profile over the Internet, but of course this requires his cooperation.
It may also be advisable to keep a backup record on paper and to look at your blood glucose trends between doctor visits. If you notice an upward or downward trend in your numbers at a particular time of day, call your health-care provider for advice.
You can also help your health-care provider by providing him with your family history. Don’t know what to include? The Department of Health and Human Services makes it easy for you through its Family History Initiative. Because some diseases and conditions — both common and rare — can run in families, it’s helpful for your doctor to know what to watch out for when it comes to your health.
Go to www.hhs.gov/familyhistory to learn more and to download a Web-based family health portrait that you can fill in and take to your doctor. You may also want to share the information with family members.
Technology is also poised to improve diabetes education, especially for young people. In a 1997 study, kids ages 8–16 who were assigned to play a diabetes-themed video game called Packy & Marlon had 77% fewer diabetes-related urgent care and emergency room visits over six months than those not assigned to play the game. “The [study] demonstrated that a well-designed diabetes self-management game could change health behaviors and outcomes,” says Debra Lieberman, a coauthor of the study, which was published in the journal Medical Informatics. (Packy & Marlon, for Super Nintendo, can still be bought used at www.ebay.com and www.amazon.com.)
Highly rated diabetes education computer games that are widely available include dbaza’s Diabetes Education for Kids, a CD-ROM for Windows operating system, and It’s Time to Learn About Diabetes, a CD-ROM for both Windows and Mac. Two more graphically complex nutrition-themed video games, Escape From Diab and Nanoswarm: Invasion From Inner Space, are set to be released this year. Both were developed through a partnership between Archimage, Inc., and the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine. A variety of free online games can also be found at the American Diabetes Association’s Youth Zone, located at www.