Having up to date information on your medical conditions, drug allergies, next of kin and care directives is vitally important to healthcare providers. You should carry this information on you. Always.
Despite initiatives such as the My Heath Record (somewhat controversially) being rolled out in Australia, your health records may not always be readily accessible in an emergency.
Following an emergency that has left you unable to communicate, paramedics or hospital staff will usually look in your belongings (wallet, purse, bag etc) for personal ID and any medical information that can assist them. This will only happen in a potentially life threatening event. It is illegal for medical staff to access your personal property in normal situations.
If you have an existing life-threatening medical condition or drug allergy you should be wearing some form of medi-alert bracelet or necklace. But everyone should carry some form of medical emergency information.
Almost everyone has a phone on them most of the time, so using this to store your medical emergency information makes sense. If you have an iPhone you can enter relevent information into Apple’s native ‘Health’ app. Make sure you turn on the ‘Show when locked’ option.
Responders can then access this information by selecting ‘Emergency’ then ‘Medical ID’ from your lock screen.
NOTE: using this feature also gives anyone else who has your phone access to your health information. And as it may include personal and sensitive info (eg your details could be used for identity theft) consider this before activating. I would suggest omitting your DOB and address if there is likelihood of your phone being accessed by others.
There are also many similar apps available (just search for ‘In case of emergency’ in the app store) that do the same thing. However, if your iPhone is locked, this information is not accessible by emergency responders.
Actually, despite our culture of going digital, this is a better option for many reasons:
- Kept in your wallet or purse it will be less likely to be accessed by others.
- Phones can be damaged during an accident making them unusable.
- Phones may become physically separated from you during an emergency whilst a wallet or purse is more likely to remain on your person.
Having a small card or paper record of vital emergency information can make a big difference to medical responders. HERE is a link to a document I have drafted to help you make your own.
Ideally, you should print it out in a smaller (credit card) size and laminate it for durability. But having it as a paper document will be fine (just remember to replace it as it gets shabby).
Including your photo is optional but really useful to confirm that this information actually links to you.
If you have completed your advance care directives write down where they can be accessed in the other information section.
If you have not yet done this, you should go do it now. This is why.
If you fold the completed paper into your wallet write ‘EMERGENCY INFO’ in big red letters on the outside and put it in a prominent location in your wallet/purse/bag.
It only takes a short time to make one of these cards for yourself (and other family members). And it could prove invaluable to paramedics, doctors and nurses in the case of you experiencing a medical emergency.