How to Maintain Emergency Medical Information

An emergency can happen at any time. The leading cause of death for people under the age of 44 in America is emergency trauma. In addition, in the United States alone, it is estimated that 98,000 people die yearly from preventable medical errors.[1] Give yourself a greatly improved chance of avoiding becoming a statistic by preparing information in advance that explains your medical needs immediately for first responders attending to you, information that could be vital during the "golden hour" (the small window of opportunity to turn around the chances of death through prompt medical treatment).[2] This article provides a quick and simple guide to keeping a concise but vital set of information both on your person, as well as in a highly obvious and accessible place, that could help first responders save your life in the situation where you are unable to speak for yourself.

It should be noted that while this article is written for those residing in the United States, the elements of the list should help you to compile a sound list no matter where you live worldwide.


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    Prepare a quick emergency medical information list in the way that will most maximize your chances of getting good treatment. Set out the essentials of emergency medical information needed by medical personnel. Put the information in a place that is easily discovered when help arrives, such as a pocket card. In it you should list:
    • All medications including OTC preparations. This is very important. Some medications can drastically alter the course of your treatment. Make sure that this section is complete and accurate! Include names and dosages.[3]
    • Medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart conditions, etc.
    • Doctor's information and emergency contacts. When they are contacted they should have ready access to specific information.
    • Prior health history reasons for not using certain methods to assist you.
    • Name, Age, & Gender. This may sound silly, but in the event of a serious trauma or burn injury, this might not be immediately evident.
    • How to choose one treatment over another. This includes transplantations, pacemakers, internal implants, pregnancy, seizures, renal failure, etc.
    • Medication allergies. If you're allergic to penicillin, etc.
    • Past surgical history. Depending on the nature and time frame of the surgery, it may be important for the emergency doctors to know.
    • Include your immunization history.
    • Allergies, sensitivities, dietary restrictions This is also very important, especially if these allergies include any drugs. Again, make sure that this section is complete and accurate!
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    Identify your primary care practitioner, or PCP. Include the doctor's name, address and any and all phone/fax numbers you have for him/her. Your doctor will expect that they will be contacted in such an event, but letting them know you have put this together is always a good idea.
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    Where to turn should questions arise about your wishes. Family members, doctor, etc. should be contacted if you need a transfusion, operation, etc. Emergency contact(s). Your spouse, sibling, parent, child, anyone whom you trust enough to be the first to know about your condition, since this will likely be the first person the ER contacts. Of course, be sure to let the person know they are on this list, and if possible, give them a copy of this information. Specifically note if this person is named in a Durable Power of Attorney or Advanced directives.
    • Advanced directives This is just as important for your loved ones as it is for you. This is a difficult issue for most people to deal with when they have all the time they need to think it over. It can be all but impossible to think clearly during medical emergencies. If your wishes are made clear to your family and kept in writing, it will make it easier for your family and your doctors. They will have your wishes well documented and can thus more reliably abide by them, and they will know your wishes ahead of time and will not have to decide for you in such a difficult time.
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    Keep the information list brief, but as detailed as possible. Although there isn't time to be reading your entire life story, details will be important.
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    Keep the information on your person at all times. After all, this information is of little use if doctors, paramedics, and EMTs don't have immediate access to it in the event of an emergency. Here are a number of ways to keep it close to you:
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    A simple way is to print out a page from on your home computer with all the necessary information and either:
    • Keep a print-out of the information in your wallet/purse. Make it credit card or business card size, or fold it to fit.
    • Put the file on a small jump drive or other data medium which is kept on your person. This may be more practical for the elderly or chronically ill, whose medical histories/information tends to be too extensive to fit a simple sheet of paper. In the latter case, just be aware, however, that fancy electronics aren't always going to be helpful when in the heat of the moment, or when being treated remotely, and having paper back-up makes good sense.
    • Wherever your information is, it should be clearly labeled so that a first responder looking through your belongings for any vital information will see it in the hurried environment of a trauma or other medical emergency. If you make it brightly colored it will be easier to find.
    • Add the emergency contact information to your cell phone or PDA cell phone by making a contact named "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) with the phone number of your contact. Both emergency responders and civilian good Samaritans who also have ICE entries in their phones will know to check your phone or PDA for this information.
    • There are also products available which can carry or provide access to a database with your medical information. Such products may be easier for emergency personnel to identify. The LifeGuard30 device, for example, is clearly marked with the Rod of Asclepius (the universal symbol of the medical profession to indicate medical records are available) and attached to a keychain.
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    Keep the information list up-to-date. Ideally your vital information should be updated periodically. This means that you should update it after every doctor's visit. If you're keeping it on the computer, get into a regular habit of updating and printing off again when you return home or to the office after the visit. If you are using a paid service to update your information, follow their instructions on updating.
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    Consider ensuring that all family members have recorded their emergency medical information in the same way. You are responsible for ensuring that all children in your care are adequately covered by this information. You might be too distressed, or even injured or unconscious yourself, to be able to speak for them in the case of an emergency.


  • If you have been diagnosed with a chronic medical condition, (diabetes, asthma, etc.) a terminal illness, (cancer, heart failure, etc.) or have a severe allergy to food, medication or latex, you may be well advised to wear a medical ID. These can be very inexpensive and can also be very useful should you get in a car accident or other emergency. They make men's styles too, and they may be the most useful piece of "jewelry" anyone will ever buy. It is also a good idea for people with metal implanted into their bodies (because they can't have an MRI), small children with any of the above (especially food allergies), because they may not understand the severity of their allergy/illness/disability and people on multiple medications. Alzheimer's patients are also candidates for an ID that includes a means of contact for a caregiver.
  • There are also a number of monitoring services available that will maintain your information for you and provide in home alert devices that will dispatch emergency services if the need arises.
  • Medical history and emergency information forms are also available online from the Mayo Clinic and the American Medical Association.
  • Write important information on an index card and stick it on your refrigerator door in plain view. In case of an emergency where you have to be rescued and are unconscious, they will have all important data easily accessible. Some emergency units have been asked to check on the refrigerator door.
  • The “Vial of Life" program is a free program designed for seniors and individuals with serious medical conditions. It provides medical information to emergency personnel who respond to and treat home emergencies.
  • For children with special health care needs "The American Academy of Pediatrics" has specially designed forms available.
  • Try searching online for free templates for emergency information. One good search term is "emergency information card". Look for reliable sites, such as government or health care organizations, and ensure that the template covers everything you need to explain.
  • Keeping all your medical information and documents in one place is crucial. This is easy with the patent pending, custom-designed Emergency Medical Info Kit (EMI Kit). The two pocket system separates the information needed immediately for on-the-spot retrieval from the information needed for the hospital. The EMI Kit’s front pocket holds a very comprehensive medical summary form which includes contact info, medical history, medications, etc. The back pocket is for the all the support documents (i.e. healthcare proxy, photo, copies of insurance cards, etc.) There is also the Emergency Medical Info Kit PLUS which provides a USB flash drive pre-loaded with generic forms for 5 people and 2 pets. Visit for more information.
  • You have many options that allow you to have your emergency information available. Which you choose should be based on your personal needs and risk factors.
  • The nonprofit MedicAlert® Foundation has been providing a lifesaving emergency medical information service for over 50 years. Individuals receive a personalized MedicAlert® ID bracelet and a MedicAlert® emergency wallet card with a direct link to the MedicAlert® 24-hour emergency response center, where their emergency response staff relay your vital medical information to first responders. [4]
  • MedicTag LLC[5] produces a small USB medical alert storage device that allows you to carry all your emergency information with you at all times. It contains much of the medical information needed by emergency personnel, such as existing medical conditions, allergies, medication currently being taken, and emergency contact information and it fits on your key ring.
  • At a minimum, anyone with an existing medical condition or who has special emergency needs should wear some type of to alert medics to his or her situation. This could be in the form of a medical bracelet, a dog tag, or a necklace.[6][7][8]
  • Another company to order an affordable medical ID bracelet is Hope Paige Designs. Hope Paige offers fashionable bracelets at a low cost.


  • This article is intended for information purposes only. The planning for and appropriate course of action in any emergency situation should be made in consultation with a licensed and board certified physician only.
  • In the event of any emergency, call 911 in the USA, or your local police department immediately. Other emergency numbers for worldwide calls can be found in the wikiHow article: How to Call Emergency Services.

Things You'll Need

  • Printing facilities (or paper and pen, neat handwriting)
  • Scissors to cut card to size (optional)
  • Key chain, dog tag, etc. if using other than wallet placement
  • Updated medical history details (see your doctor)

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