Carrying an Up-to-Date Medication List Can Save Your Life


What is the most important item in your wallet? Is it your keys? Maybe you think it's your driver's license or perhaps your bank card?

The most important, and often overlooked, item that you should carry is actually an up-to-date and accurate list of medications you are taking, including prescription, herbal and over the counter medications. It only takes a few moments to compile and may help health care workers treat you or a loved one in the event of an emergency.

"Imagine that you are incapacitated. A nurse asks your loved ones or caregiver what medications you are taking," said Lori Oliver, RN and nurse manager for St. Luke's Hospital's Emergency Department.

"They may not know that you take heart medication or the appropriate dose to treat your high blood pressure. They may not be familiar with any allergies you have," she said. "Missing a dose of any vital medication can impact your health. Also, if it is after hours and/or the patient uses mail order for medications, we do not have a way to get access to those medication lists. I think it's important to note that we want to be spending time with you (the patient) instead of on the phone spending time trying to figure out what medications a patient takes."

By keeping an up-to-date list of medications readily available and with you at all times, you are playing an active role in your treatment, providing important information to medical staff and enabling them to know how best to proceed. This is important as it expedites care when coming to the ED or in emergency situations. It is also very important if anyone is traveling out of the area.
Changes in the medical field and the conveniences of modern living also make medication reconciliation a necessity. "Many years ago, people had one primary doctor and only visited their local pharmacist," says Alison Owens, MD, medical director for St. Luke's Hospital's Emergency Department.

"Now, patients have specialists to help care for a variety of conditions which can result in more prescriptions. People no longer utilize just the neighborhood pharmacy. They can shop around for the best deal," Dr. Owens said.

"As a result, it can be difficult for medical professionals to know exactly all of the drugs a patient is taking and to double-check the interactions between medications."
Health care professionals call it 'medication reconciliation.' Medication reconciliation is the process of comparing patients' current medications to any new medications that your doctor may order during treatment.
"A thorough medication list that you keep in your wallet can tell a healthcare provider a lot about you," said Oliver.

"It should list any allergies you have, prior adverse reactions and most importantly, include any current medications, with dosage and frequency, that you are taking," notes Dr. Owens.
The medication list should also include non-prescription medications such as supplements, aspirin, vitamins, and minerals.

Dr. Owens offers the following tips for patients:
•Create a list of all medications you are taking. Don't forget vitamins, over-the-counter medicines, and herbal supplements.
•The list should include the name of the medication, the dose, and the number of times a day you have to take it.
•Include information about how to take the medication (with or without food, as a pill, as a shot).
•Include information about any allergies.
•Share the list with close friends, family, and caregivers.
•Keep the list handy in case of an emergency (purse, wallet, car and work).
•Update the list as needed.
•Create a list for your children, spouse/ partner, and any elderly relatives.

"Having a medication list handy is an easy and important way to let your medical providers know about your health," said Oliver. "It only takes a few moments to compile and gives you, the patient, the tools to help make decisions about your care."

Keeping our community informed and safe is another way St. Luke's Hospital provides exceptional care, close to home. St. Luke's Hospital has medication cards for your wallet. If you would like to receive your own medication card, call (828) 894-0971.