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Make Your Emergency Health Info Checklist

Apr 24, 2020 4 min read Zina Kumok

Key Takeaways

  • Hospitals and clinics are under serious strain due to COVID-19.
  • Easy-to-find health info can help you get better care faster.
  • The more comprehensive your list, the better.



Many states are seeing their medical infrastructure buckle under the strain of COVID-19. Despite a flattening curve, cases continue to pour into hospitals and clinics, with health care providers struggling to keep pace.

That’s why it’s critical to keep your vital emergency health information current and on hand.

An up-to-date medical checklist can speed up a diagnosis or prevent mistakes, like a doctor prescribing a medicine you're allergic to. For the elderly and those with chronic health issues, it could mean the difference between life and death.

If you're a caregiver for an older adult, encourage them to gather their information. Then make sure it’s easily accessible, like on your refrigerator door.

Here’s what to include:


Current medications

A list of your medications — prescriptions and over the counter — will prevent a hospital from administering something that may interfere with a drug you're already taking.

Note the drug and/or brand names, dosages and frequencies. Also include vitamins and supplements, which could react with some medications. Be sure to update the list if you start or stop a drug.


Medical history

A basic medical history can help steer doctors toward a faster diagnosis and possible treatment. Include recent surgeries, other significant health events and past and current diagnoses. (Don’t assume certain information is trivial; you never know what may be vital to a doctor.)



Write down any allergies you have, their severity and your symptoms. This is critical if you're allergic to certain medications or have a negative reaction to anesthesia. Include your allergist’s name and phone number, especially if you receive regular treatments.


Doctors and pharmacists

Write down the names and phone numbers for your current doctors, including specialists. Also note the pharmacy that fills your prescriptions.

You may want to list the hospital you’d prefer to be taken to — preferably one where your doctor has admitting privileges. (This won’t guarantee you'll be taken there, especially if the facility is farther away.)


Advance directive

An advance directive, aka living will, is a legal document that outlines what steps may be taken if you become unable to make your own medical decisions. This includes whether or not to resuscitate or place you on a ventilator. (Some states have specific advance directives, which you can complete online.)

As an alternative, a health care proxy gives a third party the right to make medical decisions on your behalf. This often benefits unmarried patients, who don't have a spouse with legal authority over such decisions. If you don’t want to name a health care proxy, include an emergency contact on your list.


Health insurance

Accessible insurance information helps the hospital process claims faster. A copy of your insurance card should be enough. (Make sure to update it if your insurance changes.)



What you can do next

Gather your (or your loved ones’) key medical information, put it in a prominent place, and update it as needed. Not only will it help health care experts provide you with the right kind of care in an emergency. It will also help ease their burdens too.



Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. She has written for the Associated Press, Indianapolis Monthly and more. She also writes a blog about how she paid off her student loans in three years.


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