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The moment I first met with the medical team, I realized two things:  First, this situation would not be something that resolves overnight or anytime soon. Second, I needed a way to keep a record of medical contacts, events,  progress, resources, visitors, and much more.

I consider myself generally well organized but over the years I have tried and failed with nearly every ToDo list and diary system created, whether paper or computer-based. My background is in technology, so I pride myself on using a technology solution whenever possible, but sadly, most products don’t meet my expectations (which are unusually high).

I had been successfully using Trello, a project/organization manager, as a tool to help with teaching undergraduate college classes. While using it for a medical diary is not an obvious usage, it satisfied my immediate requirements:

  1. Trello is cloud-based, which means that I could access the information I stored in it easily from any of my devices — laptop, phone, tablet.
  2. Trello is free, and you get enough functionality that is it actually useful.
  3. Trello is team-oriented. Team functionality turned out to be very useful as it enabled me to allow family members to see and update the information. At times, I would even give medical providers access so that they could evaluate or update something.

So what is Trello, and how did I use it?

Trello uses a metaphor of a giant board, like a bulletin board or whiteboard, upon which you keep lists of lists that look like cards. You don’t have to put a lot of thought into an organization structure — you can make it up as you go along as it’s relatively easy to move things around.

Trello sample board
Sample Trello board from the website tour

In my case, I started using Trello to keep track of medical contacts and a diary of what transpired every day. The hospital where J spent her first few weeks was a teaching hospital and aside from the regular nursing shift changes, the residents rotated every week, and a variety of other specialists wandered in randomly. There was no way I could keep track of it all in my head, especially since I was grappling with what had happened. I might have been able to write it all in a paper log but since information came to me in a random fashion, it was hard to know exactly how to structure it on paper. With Trello, I could just take the next bit of information, create a card for it, and place it within an existing list or create a new list. If I didn’t like how things were evolving, I could change it all easily. The only time I ended up doing a laborious change was when I decided to retitle all of the cards in the diary to have the date so I could sort them. Following is a screenshot of what my board looked like — to protect privacy, I’ve grayed out anything personal.

Trello Medical Diary
My Medical Diary Capturing Everything Going On

Trello is very easy to use though it does take a little practice to understand how best to use it. I keep finding new uses. Trello also works well on any device or directly from the website. Eighteen months after J’s stroke, I’m still referring to the information stored in Trello and at times, adding new information.

You can store documents directly in Trello or you could couple it with another package such as Dropbox to store physical documents. One possible and important use for all this would be to track the activities of the medical team in case an error occurs — keeping a contemporaneous log would likely help in a malpractice lawsuit.

So, it’s important to use some type of tool to help you stay afloat in the sea of information that is our medical system, and Trello can be a good starting point. Try the tour for starters. I’d love to hear about other things that have worked for you.

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