Trust Attorney Torrance Palos VerdesCourtesy of ElderLawAnswers with commentary from the Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis

If medical personnel are able to immediately access your medical history during an emergency, it could mean the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, if you are injured, in shock, suffering from dementia, or are otherwise incapacitated, you may not be able to provide that information yourself.

There are several systems readily available to help you make your crucial contact and medical history information available to first responders. Consider taking the time to check out and implement the following free tools:

  • On Your Smartphone: Even when your smartphone is locked, you have options for inputting your emergency contacts as well as other vital information that could help save your life.
    • Medical ID for iPhones. If you are an iPhone user, take advantage of the preinstalled Health app to input details about your medical needs so that first responders will have the information they need in an emergency. To do this, open the Health app, choose Review Medical ID, and enter your information.

      You can include not only your designated emergency contacts, but also such details as your birthdate, any medical conditions or allergies, your blood type, and your organ donor status. You can then choose to make your Medical ID available on your iPhone’s lock screen for first responders.

      In addition, there is an option to share your Medical ID information automatically with a dispatcher, should you ever need to make an emergency call. For more step-by-step instructions on how to set up your Medical ID, click here.
    • Emergency Information on Android devices. Depending on your device, you may be able to find “Emergency Information” or “My Info” in your Settings, where you can enter your medical details and emergency contacts. Be sure to add anyone you wish to designate as an emergency contact into your Contacts app as well.

      In your Android Settings, you can also add your emergency contact information to your lock screen as a custom message. For more information on how to set up your “Emergency Information” on your Android device, click here.
    • In Case of Emergency (ICE) Contact. This program, which was originally established in 2004, encouraged people to list in their cell phone their “in case of emergency” contacts under the heading “ICE,” allowing paramedics or other medical personnel to know whom to contact in the event of an emergency. Today, there is also a free ICE app for smartphones, which allows you to send an instant message, including your GPS location, directly to your ICE contacts with the tap of a button if you are in an emergency situation. For more information about ICE contacts, click here.
  • The National Next of Kin Registry (NOKR). The NOKR is a free service that allows you to register yourself and your next of kin in the event of such situations as daily emergencies or natural disasters. The information you enter is not available to the public, but it is available to emergency service agencies registered with the NOKR. If you are in an accident, emergency services personnel would be able to search the website to find your next of kin and notify them about your condition. The NOKR stores emergency contact information for those across the U.S. as well as 87 other countries. You can register online, through U.S. mail, or via fax. Learn more about registering for the NOKR.

To get the most out of an emergency contact, you should make sure the person you choose as your emergency contact has agreed to act in this capacity, knows about any allergies or other factors that could affect your treatment, and knows whom to contact on your behalf.

What About Emergency Access to Your Important Estate Planning Documents?

Once you are taken to the hospital and are under medical care, you are going to want to have your important estate planning documents accessible to your doctors. These documents include your HIPAA Authorization, as well as your Advanced Health Care Directive (which names your designated health care decision maker). These documents are needed in order for your doctors to be able to speak with someone from your family and for the doctors to have the necessary information to speak with the representative you’ve selected to make your medical decisions in such a situation.

  • In Your Wallet: A Health Document Emergency Card. We provide this card and associated three-year membership to our clients when they first get their Living Trust prepared by our firm (or do a significant upgrade to an existing Living Trust). The Health Document Emergency Card is for you to keep in your wallet (recommended right near your health insurance card or driver’s license). This card will give your doctors 24/7/365 access to your important estate planning documents and any other important medical information that you may provide (including allergies, medical history and conditions, information about your primary care physician, etc.).

    If you do not have a Health Document Emergency Card or if you’ve let your membership lapse, feel free to reach out to our firm and we can discuss with you how you can make sure that you have this important service active!

In conclusion, you may never know when or where you may be when an emergency may come up and having access to these important contacts and documents is crucial. Hopefully the tips and suggestions noted above can be of help to ensure that you are properly prepared in the event of an emergency.

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