It is 10 pm on a busy night in the emergency room when you are brought in, unable to speak coherently to the ambulance staff or the emergency room staff. You are confused and not sure what is happening around you. You are unable to answer the nurses’ questions. They need medical information from you, and you are unable to give it…
It is a busy weekday in your new doctor’s office. You are preparing to fill out the information form when you realize that you don’t really know some of this information: Is your Coumadin dose 5mg. or 2.5mg? And when was your last pneumonia shot?
We often think of keeping medical information as something we do for our children, like immunization records. What some of us don’t realize is that documenting our own medical record and keeping it with us can be extremely handy and even life-saving in a crisis. As we age and our medical history gets longer, we have more surgeries, and/or more medications and it may get harder to remember what year you had that gallbladder surgery or the total knee replacement. You may forget problems, surgeries or medications entirely. Keeping your medical history up to date and with you at all times can eliminate time and trouble should you need to visit a new doctor, go to the emergency room, or suffer a medical crisis.
The information you need on your personal medical record starts with your name, address, phone number and an emergency contact who does not live with you. If you are in a medical crisis, you may not be in a position to give out this information. Your medical insurance company and insurance group numbers with your social security number would come in handy here, but are not a necessity if you are in a life-threatening emergency.
Next, list the medications you take; with the name of the medication, the dose you take, how often you take it, and note or star any new medications or recent dose changes. It is very important to keep this list current. It may be easier to write this part in pencil, so you can make your changes easily, or keep your information on a computer so you can change it with the stroke of a key.
Keep track of your tetanus boosters and pneumonia shots. Time flies and it can seem like you had a booster just 2 years ago, when really it may be 5 years or more. It’s difficult to keep track of immunizations that you only have once every 5 years or so.
List your medical problems: diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma?? List any problem that you routinely live with or visit the doctor for. Also list your major surgeries and date them.
Finally, list your primary care and specialists names, addresses and phone numbers. This will come in handy if the doctor treating you is not one of your regular doctors and he wants to talk to a doctor who has seen you before.
If you are the really efficient type, you can ask your doctor for a copy of your last routine electrocardiogram (EKG). This tracing of the electrical activity in your heart can come in handy if, for example, an emergency room physician wanted to compare your current EKG to your previous one to help him see if any changes have taken place.
Remember to take this information wherever you go; vacations, cruises, and even to the grocery store. Perhaps on your next vacation to a Palm Springs resort. Sometimes you’ll know ahead of time when you’ll need it, and unfortunately, sometimes you won’t. Those are the times you will need it the most. Give a copy to your spouse, and keep a copy of theirs. Give a copy to a neighbor or close friend, and certainly a copy to your emergency contact. In a crisis, this information could save your life.