Medication lists save time in the ER

Apr 28, 2022

Know your family’s medications and health history in case of emergencies

CAVE CREEK – Does your spring cleaning to-do list include taking inventory of your family’s medications? It’s a good time to organize a record of what’s in the medicine cabinet in case there’s a medical emergency.

Health care professionals from Abrazo hospitals throughout the Valley say that keeping a list of medications and health history up to date can help patients avoid effects from potential adverse drug interactions.

“It’s important to know, because not having this information may cause a delay in care, as paramedics or hospital staff try to confirm current medications before providing that information to the physician,” said Sarah Bird, RN, an emergency department nurse and administrative director at Abrazo Cave Creek Hospital.

“What if you or a family member were rushed to the hospital, would a loved one be able to provide a current list of your medications to first responders or the Emergency Department? Would you know the names and dosages of their prescriptions? How about any non-prescription medications?” she said.

Some of the important things to keep track of include:

  • Medications, including name, dosage and whether it was completed or is ongoing.
  • Medical history. This may include chronic conditions or recent illnesses.
  • Allergies to medications and foods and the type of reaction.
  • Vitamins, supplements, and other over-the-counter items, and dosage.
  • Other pertinent health information, including immunizations.

“You may prefer to document your medications on paper, but you can keep a list on your phone as well,” said Bird. “Keep a historical record. This applies to you, along with your spouse and children, and it’s a good idea to ask your parents to do the same, especially if you may be called to assist them with a health crisis.”

Update the list when changes occur. It may sound cumbersome, but it’s important to keep your list current. Even the slightest change, such as adding a vitamin supplement, should be noted, said Bird.

There are some common sense ways to help keep this information: Each time you make a change, note the date. Ask your pharmacy (or pharmacies) to print out a list of medications filled in the last year. And make sure someone in your family or circle of friends knows where you keep your medications list.

“Do yourself and your family a favor by putting medication reconciliation at the top of your to-do list. Time is precious, and in an emergency, minutes matter,” said Bird.

If you have expired prescriptions you no longer need, many fire and police stations will accept medications for safe disposal.

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