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Vial or file, officials say home medical records are important

News editor

Kansas Department on Aging rolled out Project Red File last week in Topeka, a pilot project to put emergency folders on refrigerators that will eventually go statewide.

Marion EMT Gene Winkler welcomed the news, as the effort would reinforce past initiatives to get seniors to have medical information ready for emergency responders.

“They’ve had something like this a couple times before,” Winkler said, mentioning in particular Vial of Life, a program once promoted in Marion County.

“It would be real nice to have that information, mainly to be able to take it with us to the hospital, especially if there’s no family available to tell the hospital people what their background is.”

EMS crews are accustomed to looking for such information, he said, and to take it with them when transport is necessary.

“It’s usually in the kitchen or the bathroom — those are the two places we look first,” Winkler said. “Most people keep their medication together. They have it in some kind of container, or they’re in a smart pack, so it’s not usually too hard to find.”

In some instances, having emergency medical information ready can save a patient a trip to the hospital, Winkler said. If EMTs know immediately a person is diabetic, for example, they may respond well to glucose administered at the scene.

Patients in an emergency may not recall the name of particular medications they are taking, or may be unconscious. If medications aren’t brought to the hospital with the patient, a current list of medications from an emergency file can help medical staff get started right away on a proper course of treatment.

“There are a lot of medications that don’t like others,” Gail Boaldin, director of nursing at St. Luke Hospital, said. “Having an accurate list would help to avoid that problem.”

Boaldin said that most patients have been seeing local doctors, which is advantageous when trying to access medical records, but promoted patient-compiled medical records as a way to accelerate interventions, particularly outside of physicians’ normal office hours.

“It would also be in a patient’s best interests to have everything up to date,” she said.

Stan Conover, chief nursing officer at Hillsboro Community Hospital, said all allergies a patient has should be included with the information. Knowing about allergies to medications helps medical staff to know what ones to administer, and knowing about allergies to foods, insects, or other items can also be useful when trying to diagnose a problem, he said.

Whatever system a person chooses, Conover recommended including:

  • Contact information for family members, physicians, and anyone else authorized to make medical or financial decisions on behalf of the patient.
  • A summary of medical history, including past surgeries, current and past medical conditions, and a list of allergies.
  • A list of current medications, updated regularly, including dosage instructions.
  • Copies of advanced care directives.

Last modified Feb. 17, 2016

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