Be Prepared

Where should I leave medical information?

Paramedics carrying patient out.
During an emergency you might not be able to speak. Paul Burns / Getty Images

Question: Where should I leave medical information?

Do paramedics and EMTs really look in a patient's refrigerator or cell phone to find medical information?

Answer: They may, but there's no guarantee.

Checking the Fridge

There is no universal training for EMTs and paramedics to check in the refrigerator for information. Why would we? Diabetics, for example, often aren’t able to talk when we arrive. Checking the fridge is a quick way to see if a confused patient is indeed a diabetic, since insulin bottles should be kept cold.

If there was a bottle of medication prominently displayed in the refrigerator, we may see it--but, then again, we may not.

There is a program called Vial of Life that provides people with a form to fill out with medical information. A sticker is then placed on the front door to alert responders to the presence of the "vial" in the fridge. In areas where the program is utilized by ambulance agencies or fire departments, the vial can be a good way to get information to rescuers if the patient can’t talk.

Checking a Cell Phone

ICE stands for “In Case of Emergency.” It was developed by a British paramedic who thought that having a contact in your cell phone clearly identified for emergencies would be a great way for emergency responders to gain information. The idea is good on the surface, but again, there is no universal training to check cell phones for contacts during a medical emergency.

I have an ICE entry in my cell phone, like many others, but I don’t know if anyone would ever look for it.

However, it didn’t cost me anything and it may help in an emergency. To create one of your own, put "ICE" next to a contact’s name in your cell phone. Mine, for instance, says “ICE – Wife” before my wife’s name (no jokes as to the way that reads.) This entry helps responders who might look for an emergency contact know they were calling my ICE contact and that the contact is my wife.

I can tell you that I’ve never looked at a cell phone to find contact information during an emergency. I think that if the cell phone made it to the hospital, then a health professional would be more likely to dig through it for phone numbers.

What to Do

Paramedics and EMTs are trained to do as much investigating as possible to figure out what is wrong with a patient. Though there’s no way to guarantee we’ll find the information left for us, there are some standards that we are used to seeing.

We'll look for medications throughout the house. Wherever you store medication bottles, keep a form with medical information. Include the following:

  • full name
  • birthdate
  • current medications
  • allergies
  • chronic medical conditions (diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, etc.)
  • emergency contact names and phone numbers

Take a look at these ways to organize medical information to see the pros and cons of each one.

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