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What essential information do emergency medical providers need to know?


Updated January 25, 2014

Question: What essential information do emergency medical providers need to know?

Answer: Technically, nothing, but we'd like to know more.

The worst case scenario of an emergency that requires an ambulance response is that the crew knows nothing about the patient. The good news is that we train for that very scenario more than any other. Many of our patients come with very little information -- sometimes not even identification -- and can't speak. We assess those patients as quickly and thoroughly as we can, treat life-threatening emergencies and transport them to the emergency department.

Of course, that's not the best situation for the patient. Ideally, we'd like to know more. Some important personal medical information that would certainly help us out would be:

  • patient's name
  • birthday
  • allergies
  • medications with dosages. Be sure to include over-the-counter medicines and vitamins.
Knowing about a patient's medical condition is helpful, but there is such a thing as too much information. I've had patients hand me inch-thick copies of their medical records, which isn't something I can look through during an emergency.

In most cases, simply giving us a diagnosis is good enough. As a paramedic, I want to know if a patient has diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, epilepsy or any of a dozen more diagnoses. These are all common conditions that we are very familiar with, and I immediately know how each condition can impact the patient during this emergency just by the name of the condition.

When a patient has a condition we've never heard of, a good crew will ask the patient or family about the diagnosis. Considering we've never heard of the problem, the resident expert is obviously the patient. To get the best result, boil the information down to the nitty gritty basics:

  • name of the condition
  • what it does to the body (keep it basic)
  • how it may impact this emergency
Emergency crews repeatedly deal with similar complaints. Even if we've never heard of your condition, we'll do our best to treat life-threatening signs and symptoms and get you to the hospital safely.


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