Medical Emergency Information, Medication and Contacts by John Skinner

mobile phone

By John Skinner

About the author: John Skinner is a retired Police Inspector with forty years service in England and Bermuda. For the last eight years of his Bermuda service he was responsible for the planning, and assisted in the implementation of, national internal security and natural disaster response. In 2003 he was elected a Fellow of the Emergency Planning Society of England.

This article is intended to offer some ideas in the area of medical emergency information and how it can be stored and used. It does not recommend one system or brand over another, but merely intends to raise the readers awareness of what can be done, so that the reader may make their own decisions.

Some years ago my late wife and I were discussing her medication and I suggested that because of a recent diagnosis of dementia that she wear a bracelet or necklace which would contain data about her condition and medication. She refused. This caused me a bit of a dilemma because if she was alone and needed medical assistance, she would not be able to give the needed information to the attending EMTs.

After some thought I made up some business cards on my computer. Each card showed my wife’s full name and date of birth, and her doctor and Next of Kin names and contact details. I also included her medication (both Commercial and generic names) and dosage. On the reverse I put the same information about myself. My wife was happy to carry the card in her purse. I carried mine in my wallet. For simplicity I will call this the Medication Card.

A letter sized version of the Medication Card was also placed on the refrigerator door for the information of the Emergency Services should they need it. Some countries have a scheme where a special label is affixed to the main entrance to a home and also on the freezer door and the information is kept in a specially marked container in the freezer. This scheme is fine when you are at home but once you leave home you may no longer have access to the information.

I also considered having some form of necklace panic button, but for various reasons did not implement it. This also is only active around the home.

Over the years the information on the Medication Card needed updating and so they were reprinted. The cards came in useful in unexpected ways. During doctors visits they would aid in the consultation process and were an added insurance against medication being prescribed which might cause an adverse reaction if taken with existing medication. When taking tests away from the doctors surgery or visiting other specialists the Medication Cards were an accurate and valuable time saving tool when medication records needed to be taken.

The most important unforeseen benefit was in the home. Once a week we used to fill ‘Weekly Tablet containers’ with our respective medications. The Medication Cards were used to ensure the correct dosages were used.   In addition to our main supply, we also kept a Ziploc bag containing at least 30 days supply of our medications.

Living in Bermuda and with many friends and relatives of our generation overseas, we have needed to travel at short notice. The 30 day bag would be our pre-packed medication for the trip. In addition to the medication it contained the information leaflet the pharmacist would give us with each prescription. This could be useful in the event of a medical emergency whilst away or in obtaining fresh supplies if our travels were unexpectedly extended. The bag also contained spare Medication Cards plus a few regular business cards in case the bag was mislaid.

Having the weekly supply and the 30 day supply bag meant that we could replenish them from our main stock when convenient and not be rushed and this minimised the risk of error. After we had travelled or when receiving fresh medications, the expiry dates were checked and the medications with the latest expiry date were kept in the 30 day bag. New medications would be obtained when we had run out of our main supply.

One time our pharmacist and the local wholesaler were out of stock of one of our medicines for three weeks, so we had to medicate from our 30 day bag. This was very unusual but shows the benefit of holding a reserve supply of medication.

I am now living on my own. This has made me very conscious of my personal safety as it relates to medical or accidental misadventures. I recently updated my iPhone and found that iOS8 has a Health app built in. One feature of this app is that you can set up your phone to show certain details even when the phone is locked. I have mine set to show my name and date of birth, my medication, the contact details of my doctor and three people to call in an emergency (Two people in Bermuda and one in UK where I travel to most often). This is the same information I carry on my Medication Card in my wallet.

To access this information on my locked iPhone, I just open the first screen and press the word ‘Emergency’. This will change to ‘Medical ID’ and on pressing that, the medical and contact information is available. Also the emergency contact people can be called without unlocking the phone. If I have a problem I have the option of calling the Emergency Services or my contacts.

I have found a PC Magazine article (,2817,2470591,00.asp) which explains this and the other features of the iOS8 Health app much better than I can.

I have researched the internet for Health related apps for iPhones and Android cellphones with the Emergency Contacts feature without result. Either I have missed them or there is a niche market out there for some enterprising programmer.

One other thing – If you have an old iPhone which will take iOS8 and you have a young Grandchild or vulnerable person you want to stay in contact with, place your number and the parents number(s) in the emergency contacts of the Health app. If you don’t tell the child the phones passcode, you then have a phone where your child can only call you or their parents.

Restricting incoming calls is fairly easy. In the Address Book mark as favorites those people named in Emergency Contacts.

Next go to Settings – Do Not Disturb. Set manual ‘On’. Then allow only favorites and disable the Repeated Calls function. Once you have locked the phone the child should then only be able to receive calls from the people in the Emergency Contacts.

I would suggest testing the phone first to make sure it is set up the way you want.

Not quite what the programmers of iOS8 Health intended it to be used for, but I know a number of parents and grandparents that this adaption of this program will give peace of mind to.

I hope that you will find this article helpful.

Stay safe

By John Skinner




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