When it comes to you and your family, it’s up to you to fill in that missing piece BEFORE emergencies occur.
When a patient is brought in the emergency room unconscious, aside from obvious injuries, the doctors caring for him basically have no information about their patient. They have no idea what he might be allergic to, what medications he’s taking or the surgery he had the month before. Elaine Sullivan was an active seventy-one year old living on her own in Chicago. One day while getting ready to take a bath, she slipped and fell, striking her head and mouth on the side of the tub. Her neighbors realized they hadn’t seen her all day and called the paramedics, who went in and found her, conscious, but unable to speak.
Elaine had previously been a patient at the hospital she was taken to, she had private insurance, Medicare and everything she needed. Or so she thought. Even though she was stable, injuries to her mouth made her unable to speak or swallow, so she was unable to speak for herself. Over the next few days, after a series of serious medical errors and a critical drug interaction, her condition worsened.
Elaine Sullivan was my grandma. Despite the fact that the hospital had my mother’s and my contact information for our home in Los Angeles, the hospital neglected to call us for 6 1/2 days. By the time they did, Grandma was in critical condition from a lack of the most basic care. By the time we found out she’d been hospitalized, we were unable to get to her bedside before she died, unnecessarily and alone.
As we found out the hard way, some hospitals don’t make calling your next of kin their priority.
Even though most hospitals try to find an unconscious patient’s emergency contacts and notify their families in a reasonable amount of time, hospitals can sometimes become so busy or are so understaffed that they don’t make that call as quickly as they should.
We later found that one of the main factors that caused Grandma’s death was the fact that the doctors treating her didn’t have her medical or prescription drug history at their fingertips.
But the lesson we want to point out is, how critical communicating a person’s vital medical information can be.
And recent natural disasters and terrorist attacks have only amplified the need to get a trauma victim’s identification, medical history and emergency contact information to the physician treating him as quickly as humanly possible.
Your Emergency Medical Information
There’s nothing worse than having something on the tip of your tongue and not being able to remember it – except when the word you’re trying to remember is the name of a medication that the emergency room physician needs to save your daughter’s life.
Emergencies can rattle the best of us, and the phone number or facts you know by heart are the very ones that will elude you when you need them most!
You just can’t leave information that important up to your memory. Let’s get it down on paper, where it belongs!
1. What Information Am I Going To Need?
Grab a pencil and paper and jot down the types of medical information you have for each member of the family.
This includes your family’s medical history, medical information, names of everyone’s physicians, specialists, dentists, optometrists and other health care providers and current and past prescriptions.
2. The Most Important Things Are…
Close your eyes for a moment & imagine that you’re sitting in the ER with everyone in your house. One by one, imagine that your spouse, each child or your parent has an injury, like a broken arm, or needs emergency surgery. The doctor – someone who doesn’t know you or your family’s unique medical or emotional needs – walks through the door.
What does this doctor need to know about them? Jot down all of the things that just went through your mind. Old injuries, allergies, surgeries, anything you think is important.
3. Locate and Gather All The Information You Have
Using those notes and the list you completed in Step 1, locate and gather all of the medical information you have at home, along with your address book or contact information for physicians and the people you’ll be using for emergency contacts.
4. Create Your Medical Information Forms
Grab a copy of our Medical History Form, or if you have our newest book slash program The Backup Plan 3.0, there’s a copy in the back of the book. Create one for each adult and child in your family, adding all of the information you’ve located.
5. Choosing Your Emergency Contacts
Choose and name at least 3 emergency contacts for each person, including yourself.
Main Emergency Contact: If you are married, include your spouse on your form and yourself on your spouse’s form. For your children, this would be you and your spouse.
2nd Contact: should be a nearby relative or good friend who you would trust enough to make informed choices on your behalf, if necessary.
3rd Contact: should be an out of town/out of state relative or friend.
6. Anything Else To Add?
Is there any other information you need, to deal with a medical emergency while evacuated or away from home? If so, scan or make copies of that information and place it in the same folder as your completed medical history forms.
And while you’re at it, don’t forget to put ICE (In Case Of Emergency) Contacts in your and your family’s smartphones along with a copy or link to your medical history forms. That way if you ever need quick access to a family member’s medical history you’ll have it right at your fingertips. Need instructions on ICE Contacts? Click here to read the blog post.
7. Now For Safekeeping…
Print, scan or make three copies of the form you just completed, along with the documents or other materials you need and store them in at least three secure, damage-proof locations. That way if one or two of the locations are inaccessible, you’ll still be able to grab the information you need.
If you’ve decided to print out your forms and medical documents on paper, you can place them:
In a safe deposit box or water/fireproof safe in your own city.
In your watertight Plastic Evacuation Bin. Only place the documents that you actually need in this bin. If you’ll also have access to copies of your vital documents in your safe deposit box, then don’t take anything with you that you would worry about if it were lost.
With your emergency contacts or with relatives in the city where you’ll be evacuating.
In your file cabinet at work/office. If your spouse, child or relative is injured while you’re at work, you can grab the medical information from your files and take it to the emergency room.
If your forms and medical documents are on your computer, you can:
Save the forms to your smartphone so that if a member of your family is ever rushed to the emergency room, you can send the form directly to the emergency physician, so that they’ll have a medical history immediately, before you even arrive at the hospital.
Place the forms and documents on a password-protected online file repository or even the file directory of your family’s personal web site. This way if you need a copy of your information or forms quickly, you can retrieve them from any computer or send a link to the forms to the hospital, from your iPhone or smartphone.
Save them to a password-protected flash drive or portable hard drive, and take them with you during evacuation on a key ring or in your evacuation bin.
Place the password-protected flash drive or portable hard drive, in a safe deposit box or water/fireproof safe in your own city.
Place the password-protected flash drive or portable hard drive, in a safe deposit box, water/fireproof safe, or with relatives in the city where you’ll be evacuating.
If you’d like to download a copy of How To Keep Your Medical History At Your Fingertips, click here. One important note: DO NOT put your or your family’s social security numbers in your list of vital information or in online files or folders, no matter how secure they are. If you have to have those numbers with you (and haven’t memorized them), copy or scan the originals and place them in a secure safe deposit box instead.
Have Fun Getting Your Stuff Together! We’ll talk later…
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