If you had to be rushed to the emergency room, would your family be able to answer key questions from the medical staff? Would they be able to access recent bloodwork, doctors’ reports, and diagnostic tests?
If not, I suggest you set up secure cloud access to your medical records and information so that your family members can let the medical professionals know the information that is important for you to get the best treatment possible.
You may see apps or services advertising that they will hold all your medical records for you. Even Apple allows you to store medical information in the Health app. I don’t recommend these services because they don’t give you the flexibility I think you need and an app or service may not be around when you need it or be impacted by a data breach.
Here are the steps I suggest you take to make sure family members and medical staff have access to important medical information in case of an emergency.
Set up the Medical Information feature of your phone
Apple iPhones have a feature in the Health app settings called Medical ID. It allows you to enter key information such as any medical conditions, your doctors names and phone numbers, whether you are an organ donor, what medications you take, and your emergency contacts. You can make this information available to first responders when an emergency call is placed or they can access it on your phone if you are unconscious even if the phone is locked.
On newer Android phones (Android v12 and newer) they have a similar feature in the Personal Safety app. On older Android versions you can set up an emergency contact as the Contact information on your lock screen so that emergency responders know who to contact. More extensive information is not available on older Android versions.
Cloud storage platform
If you have a Gmail/Google account or if you have a Microsoft account you already have some space available to you on their cloud storage service. For Google accounts it is Google Drive and for Microsoft accounts it is OneDrive. Select one of these platforms and make sure everyone you want to access your information has access to that platform, including family members who live out of town who may need it when you visit them. Make sure everyone downloads the app for the platform on their mobile device and enables cellular access for that app so they can access the information if they are at the hospital.
Set up a secure shared folder for medical records
Within the cloud platform, set up a shared folder that will contain your medical records. Only share this one folder with the others so that you keep other documents secure and private. Within that folder you can create sub-folders that make it easy to find the required information quickly. Common organizational choices include by name of the medical specialist, by the type of medical professional, and by body part.
The most important document
The single most important document in the shared folder should be a list of current medications and conditions. This is the first information that medical responders need to know as it informs them of any potential drug interactions or other impacts that may occur due to their treatment. Make sure this is easily found in whatever organizational system you are using.
Populate the shared folders
Once the folders are set up, start adding documents, PDFs, images, and videos in the appropriate folders. You can enlist the help of others who may be able to do this easier if they are more familiar with the upload or editing of files on the platform. Depending on how much of the storage space you use for other purposes you may need to pay for extra storage if you have a lot of documents or large media files.
Share access with family members
Use the sharing feature of the platform to share access to the specific folder with selected family or friends. Make sure to give them edit privileges so they can edit or add information if needed. This will be important during a medical situation so that everyone has the latest updates. Explain how the records are organized so people know how to find the information a medical professional may need.
Have a plan for updating
One reason for using editable documents instead of just images is that medical information changes regularly when you get older. Make sure you have a plan of who is to update the information and how quickly changes are to be made after an appointment. Decide if the group that has access to the shared folder needs to have updates when changes are made and how that will be done.
Practice accessing regularly
Once the documents have been uploaded to the folders, it is important that everyone who has access to them confirms that they can find and see the files. Any access issues should be resolved. On a monthly basis, the family should hold a “fire drill” where they practice finding a specific piece of information and making it available on their devices within 15 minutes. This makes sure that their device has the app downloaded locally and they remember how to find and retrieve the information.
Take action today
As we age it becomes more important that our medical information is easily accessible by trusted family or friends who will need to communicate with medical professionals when we can’t. As a child of an aging parent you will want this in place before you need it in an emergency.
If you and your family want some help implementing a secure cloud storage system for your medical records and you live in Mississauga or the west GTA, email me and we can discuss the process I follow and the cost to give you and your family this peace of mind.