Heading to the ER? Take a list of your medications.

Ann M. Hester, M.D.

If the ER doctor does not know your medications, he is left in the dark making important decisions about your care. For example, he might order something other than a drug you really need. Or he might order a medication that interacts negatively with medication still in your system. Therefore, knowing your medications is crucial!

When you plan a trip to the hospital (or the doctor), ensure you can quickly give medical providers an updated list of your medications. Either take a bag of your prescription medications, vitamins, and nutritional supplements or a detailed list. Include the name, dosage, frequency, and why you take each. If it is a prescription medication, jot down the prescribing doctor’s name. 

There are pros and cons to each option. If you take a bag of all your medications and supplements with you the medical professionals caring for you can count the number of pills you have left in each bottle. Naturally, they will only do this for medications of importance. This can be very helpful in case you forgot to take several doses. It is not uncommon that a person winds up in the emergency room for this reason alone, skipping medication doses. 

The con of bringing in a bag filled with your pills is that you may not have time to gather the bottles together in an emergency. If you keep an updated list of all your medications, supplements, and vitamins in your wallet, you can just pull it out in a crisis. But as mentioned, this option decreases the ability to assess how many doses you missed, if any. To get the benefit of both methods, do both things. Keep a detailed medication list in your wallet. Also, keep your medications and supplements in a central place so you can quickly transfer them all to a bag if you are in a rush. It helps to keep a large plastic zip bag nearby, so you don’t have to search for one when you need it quickly.

Make sure your spouse, another family member, or significant other has quick access to your medication list. Also, if you are a caregiver or have one, ensure everyone has a copy of the medication list. Every time you update your list, make sure you give someone you trust a copy and jot down the date at the top.

A mobile app on your smartphone is another viable option for keeping track of your medications. Various medical record-keeping apps help you keep up with your medications and other essential health records. Before you download a mobile app:

  • Research it.
  • Read its reviews.
  • Learn about its security.
  • Even ask your doctor for a recommendation.