Who needs to keep their information available and updated?
Actually, all of us should but very few do. However for those at risk, such as seniors, people with chronic illness, serious allergies or medication complications, special needs children and anyone traveling away from home it is something that should not be overlooked. Children should also have the proper medical information on them at all times if they have a medical condition or serious allergy.
“In a medical emergency, you might be unconscious or unable to speak for yourself,” said Alfred Sacchetti, MD, of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). “That’s why it’s so important to make sure that medical personnel have access to your medical history, as well as relevant contact information. For example, knowing what medications you are taking could prevent severe drug interactions, and knowing what allergies you have could prevent serious reactions.”
Millions of Americans have medical conditions which should be immediately known to Emergency Personnel.
Diabetes (over 13 million), diagnosed heart disease (23 million), alzheimers, transplant surgery, patient’s currently on blood thinners such as Coumadin, epilepsy, asthma, severe allergies, cancer patients and medication allergies such as penicillin and other antibiotics are all conditions that should be brought to the attention of emergency personnel. Additionally, many of us are reasonably health but getting older (36 million people age 65 and over) and our list of medications continue to grow with the years. With over 110 million emergency room visits a year, your emergency information may actually be the most important information of your life.
What information should be maintained?
Here are just some of the things recommended by Edward Stettner, MD, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Emory University Atlanta, GA and other healthcare professionals.
Medical history – Chronic medical conditions
Medications – Including over-the-counter
Allergies – Medications and foods
Surgical history – Include the date, hospital and surgeon
Private physician – Include primary care as well as specialists
Emergency contacts – Multiple contacts with alternate numbers
Miscellaneous – Include advance directives, specific dietary needs, or any other important information.
How can you keep your information available and up to date?
Today you have many options that allow you to have your emergency information available. Which one you choose should be based on your personal needs and risk factors. The “Vial of Life” program is a free program designed for seniors and individuals with serious medical conditions. It provides medical information to emergency personnel who respond to and treat home emergencies. The “Vial of Life” contains much of the medical information needed by emergency personnel, such as existing medical conditions, allergies, medication currently being taken, and emergency contact information. Medical history and emergency information forms are also available on-line from the Mayo Clinic and the American Medical Association. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Emergency Physicians have also created an Emergency Information Form (EIF) for parents of children with special health care needs.
There are also a number of monitoring services available that will maintain your information for you and provide in home alert devices that will dispatch emergency services if the need arises. These are all good solutions for the home but do not provide coverage when you are away from the house.
As a minimum, anyone with an existing medical condition or that has special emergency needs should wear some type of medical ID to alert medics to their situation.
So how do you carry all that information around with you?
Digital technology allows a very large amount of information to be stored on surprisingly small devices. One company, MedicTag LLC, has adapted this technology to produce an emergency information device that fits on a keyring. The device is simple to use and works with your desktop or laptop computer. You can fill out the information form and make changes whenever necessary, always keeping your emergency information up to date. Emergency responders on site with a laptop or at the emergency room can have instant access to your vital information, even if you are unconscious, allowing them to diagnose and properly treat you with as little delay as possible.
Do you need to have your emergency information available?
For most of us the answer is probably yes. If not you, how about a child, parent or other loved one in your family? Considering the possible life saving benefits, it is something that we should seriously consider, for safety and security that affects the whole family.
Additional resources and references:
Vial of Life, American Academy of Pediatrics, The Mayo Clinic,
US Dept. of Health and Human Services, American College of Emergency Physicians, The American Medical Association