adventures with the vet

Obsessive Organization: Tristan’s Medical Binder

Given that we’re currently wrestling with a medical issue, it was fitting that I spent time on Sunday going over Tristan’s medical binder and getting it ready for the next few years to come. Yes, years.

I have a system. It is meticulous and yet simple, and I love it. I spent a lot of time creating it and tweaking it to suit us just right, and I am quite proud of it. Here it is, in a nutshell.

The main tool of the system is a three-ring binder. Within that binder, years of medical records are separated by tabbed dividers. I usually keep the current year and 1-2 years previous as well as 1-2 years upcoming, which means that his current medical records sit in the middle.

Each tabbed section contains two parts: overall calendars and specific invoices.

At the beginning of each section are twelve monthly calendars. I use printfree.com for just a basic, no-frills blocks calendar. Behind these twelve months are all of the invoices for all of Tristan’s care, in chronological order. If an invoice (say, for a farrier bill) is smaller than a page, I tape it to a blank page and then three hole punch that.

Whenever he gets any treatment, I write a quick note on the day of the treatment itself – something as short as “vet – spring shots” or “farrier – trim.” I usually include the name of the professional as well, just to keep track of our help through the years. Each type of visit is color-coded: green for the vet, blue for the farrier, so on and so forth. I made myself a key to the color-coding that lives at the front of the binder so I don’t forget. I color-code by highlighting the first word – “vet” or “farrier” – of the entry. If there’s an invoice, I then file it behind those initial sheets.

Now I have both an at-a-glance overview as well as an easy way of finding more information. Every two years or so, I take out a few years from the back of the binder and file them in my larger filing cabinet, again by year, and then print out another few years of at-a-glance calendars for the binder.

There is also a folder at the back of the binder that contains some miscellaneous things not necessarily date-related: copies of his radiographs, feed labels, his vitals.

In the front pocket of the binder I keep my current boarding agreement as well as five or so copies of his current Coggins. Whenever we get a new Coggins, I always file the original pink carbon copy as well as one clean copy in the back part, and then make many copies to go in the front to use up as needed, replacing the ones I keep in the trailer, tack trunk, etc.

I’ve used this system successfully for three years now. It was a bit of a pain to put together – backfilling all those records – but it’s worked brilliantly going forward. It provides a good visual reference for how recently he’s had his feet done, or had a massage, or when the vet did spring shots last year, and it gives me the confidence that I have all the information I might need right at my fingertips.

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