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A medical reference document for emergencies

Between my dad, Jen, and even our neighbor yesterday, I’ve dealt with a number of emergency room visits these last three weeks. And it’s gotten us thinking about the accessibility of medical information, especially while traveling and during medical emergencies.

So we implemented what we’re calling a medical reference document, which basically includes all the important “new patient” paperwork you’d fill out at your first visit with a new doctor.

Avoid annoying paperwork

I had already put together an earlier version of this for my dad, which made it so much easier to check-in to his various doctor offices. Instead of filling out yet another form to verify that everything’s up to date, I simply print it off ahead of time and hand back the clipboard with the attachment.

Not only does this save a ton of time and effort (and hand cramps), but it also reduces transcription mistakes when someone can’t read my handwriting as I try in vain to squeeze everything onto a blank line that’s entirely too short for the information requested. Office staff are initially confused, but often thank me for making their transcription task so much easier.

So that’s a handy enough reason to spend the 15 minutes to pull this together.

When an emergency happens

But it was the possibility of dealing with an emergency—especially while traveling—that made us decide we should both have all of our relevant medical information quickly and easily available in a single updated document.

After all, it’s hard to remember lots of details when you suddenly find yourself in a stressful moment of crisis, and especially so if there’s any sort of language barrier at play.

By having it all in writing, it’s much easier to share important information quickly, and it wouldn’t take much to use Google Translate to translate it into the local language prior to a trip, too.

Where we keep it

We are now keeping these documents saved in the cloud (which we can access from anywhere, even without our phones), and saved directly on both of our phones (so that we have offline copies available, too).

Anytime something needs to be updated—we get a new prescription for instance—we update it, share it with each other, and save copies of the new version to all the places.

What’s on the doc?

So, what information do we include? Well, basically anything that we’d want medical or emergency personnel to know in a critical situation.

So obviously that’s the basics, like general demographic and contact information, who to contact in an emergency, allergies, prescriptions, immunizations, major health illnesses, our doctor and other specialists, etc. We also include insurance and pharmacy information, though that’s likely only relevant in-country. We even include surgical and family histories, and some other info we might need when filling out medical forms.

If you have unique conditions or things you’d someone to know in an emergency (such as the details about an implanted medical device, for instance), you should definitely customize it for your own needs. If you have any suggestions for something I’ve missed, please let me know!

Here’s a template to get your started

That said, here’s a general template you can start with. This is one of those things that is incredibly easy to put off doing, only to regret not having it later. But once you get it all pulled together, it’s pretty easy to keep it updated, and you’ll have it in case you ever need it.

PDF sample

Here’s the template in pdf format, which is the file format we export to our phones.


Plain text template

And here’s a plain text version that you can edit:

Your Full Name – Medical Reference.txt

Notion template

And if you use Notion, you can one-click duplicate this to your account at this link.

Since we already use Notion for managing much of our lives, we keep the “source” files there, then just export and save the copies to our icloud drive, and then to both of our phones.