Is Your Medical Info on You in Case of Emergency?

Hopefully, you have a will, a medical directive, a health care power of attorney, a general power of attorney, a detailed list of medications, medical conditions and allergies and a list of emergency contacts, all in case you end up in a serious medical situation. I’m guessing that less than half of my clients have these, despite my encouragement and them being critical documents.

The question is – do you have all these on you at all times, easily discoverable, and the information easily accessible by emergency personnel? If you don’t, what good are they in an emergency if you are not able to communicate clearly or at all and the medical personnel don’t how or where to access them? A password-locked phone with that information will not suffice because the EMT will not know your password or whom to contact.

To answer that question indirectly, consider that the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. is medical mistakes, more than pneumonia, more than accidents. It sits behind cardiac issues and cancer, and according to MD Magazine accounts for 200,000 – 400,000 deaths a year and a much larger number of complications.

For example, what blood type do you need if you are bleeding profusely? What medical conditions, allergies or meds do you have that might play poorly with a medication given in the ER?  Even you and I don’t often know what medications might be a bad thing or our health profile. For example, someone getting a nitroglycerin tablet for a heart attack when he still has Cialis in his bloodstream can experience a life-threatening drop in blood pressure. Not good. Add a painkiller for the heart attack pain and further interactions come into play.

And, HIPPA regulations may prevent a loved one who needs to know about your situation from being able to get any information at all if they are not listed as being authorized to receive it on a document you carry.

I am recommending that at a bare minimum you have a card in your wallet or purse that lists your medications, allergies, blood type, medical conditions and contact information for your emergency contact and the person named in your health care power of attorney.

You can get a free ICE wallet card by going to https://geticecard.com/ It has a template into which you can briefly enter the information. It will save as a PDF that you can print out in business card size. Being typed is extremely helpful for legibility and to fit in a small space. I suggest you also write in the health care POA contact and then laminate the card at any office supply store for a buck or two so it stays legible.

Even better is a slim little key that will go on your keychain and which has ICE in bold letters, the universal symbol for IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. It is actually a miniature thumb drive that will have your necessary documents for a medical emergency, including a medical directive, doctors’ contact info, the signed paper appointing someone as having POA if you are incapacitated and much more medical detail than will fit on a small card.

Because this is so important, I am sending my clients a USB key with the universal ICE symbol on it. It will have forms pre-loaded for inputting your information. If you are not a client and would like a medical information key, contact me and I will send you one for a nominal amount. You can also save your healthcare power of attorney and medical directive to it. If you don’t have those, please see an attorney quickly. This is not a promotional item. To avoid confusion, my name and company name are not on it. 

With a card in your wallet and more detail on your keychain you should feel confident that emergency personnel will have what they need. Just reply to this email that you would like me to send you one.

A third precaution for my clients is to go to their Cornerstone Investment Services client portal and upload pdfs into a document vault. They can make that folder accessible to anyone that they give the login info to, either the emergency contact and loved ones or written on the wallet card.

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