What's Wrong?

During a medical emergency, time is of the essence.  Emergency medical providers must be able to gather a large amount of information quickly in order to develop the proper treatments for the patient.  Oftentimes, one provider will treat the patient while another provider tries to obtain an accurate medical history from either the patient or a family member or other bystander.  Friends, family members, and loved ones can help reduce the amount of time needed to gather this history by having some information compiled before an emergency happens.  While it is appropriate to have a medical history available for all people living with you, it is most important to have this information available for those who may have serious medical conditions, such as heart troubles or diabetes, and for those who may not be able to speak for themselves, such as the disabled or elderly.  When compiling the medical information for you or a loved one, keep these important guidelines in mind:

  • Make sure to have the full name, date of birth, age, and address on the paper, preferably near the top.
  • Allergies to medications, foods (especially nuts), and/or latex are critical pieces of information.  Make sure these are listed prominently.
  • List medical conditions the patient may have, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or asthma.
  • Include past medical history, such as heart attack or stroke in the past, and be sure to note when these events happened.
  • List any surgical history the person may have had and the dates when it was performed.  Examples include bypass surgery, organ transplants, or joint replacement.
  • Make a list of medications to be kept with or made part of the medical information, including the name of the medication, what the dosage is, and how often it is to be taken.  Include medications prescribed by a physician, over-the-counter medications taken on a regular basis (such as aspirin therapy), and dietary supplements such as herbal preparations or vitamins.
  • Keep the information in a safe location which is accessible to emergency responders and is known by all people who live in the house.  Common places in which responders are trained to look include by the front door, on the refrigerator door, or in the refrigerator.  An envelope marked "EMERGENCY MEDICAL INFORMATION" with the person's name is extremely effective and is encouraged.
  • Be sure to check and update the information on a regular basis.  Pay particular attention to keeping the medication list up-to-date, as this is a critical piece of information for emergency responders.  Also, consider including pregnancy as part of the medical conditions, and note the due-date.
  • Be sure that caretakers in your home such as babysitters or others know where the information is kept.

By following these recommendations, you can help greatly reduce the amount of time needed to provide necessary emergency care to you or your loved ones.