Greater Peoria Metro Area, IL

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Planning Ahead for Emergencies


By Joy Duling, Executive Director of Central Illinois Health Information Exchange (CIHIE)

It is one of life’s inevitabilities — almost everyone will require emergency medical care at some point in their lives. Perhaps your child falls off the playground equipment at school and you suspect a broken arm. Or your father is rushed to the hospital in an ambulance during an episode of chest pain. Or you become gravely ill with food poisoning, and your spouse insists on taking you to the emergency room.

Regardless of the situation that brings you through the doors of your local hospital, you are likely to face a barrage of questions from emergency room personnel. Unfortunately, having so many questions thrown at you when you are not feeling well, or when you are anxious about a loved one’s condition, can be upsetting. Worse yet, a medical crisis can make it easy to forget key details which may be critical to getting the best care possible and avoiding medical errors that can make you sicker.

Experts generally recommend that people maintain a simple up-to-date record of key health data, and that you ensure that this information is accessible to medical personnel.

Here is some of the information that you may wish to include in your tracking:

Allergies to medications are important, but don’t forget also to note allergies to foods, latex, dyes, or other substances that are used in tests like CAT scans.

A complete list of medications should be included with dosages and the timing that the medication is typically taken. Before medical personnel give any additional treatment, they will want to ensure that the new medication is not going to react with one that is already present in the patient’s body.

Has the patient been recently ill? Are there chronic conditions present such as diabetes or high blood pressure? Does a child have asthma? Such information can have a significant impact on the emergency response. You’ll want to be sure that medical personnel are aware of these potentially complicating factors.


Immunization records tend to be an area that many adults do not keep up-to-date.  Knowing that you have a current tetanus vaccination may prevent you from having to go through the pain and expense of revaccination when you cut your finger at work.

Past surgeries can also complicate care or can provide a clue as to the current condition. Before an emergency appendectomy, it may be useful for a surgeon to know that you’ve had other abdominal surgeries.


While it is easy to step on the scale during a regular doctor’s office visit, it not always easy to get an accurate weight when your loved one arrives unconscious in the emergency room. Weight is important for calculating medication dosages, and having a recent measure on record can mean more accurate dosing.

Family History
Like personal diagnoses, family history can give medical personnel clues about what could possibly be going on with a patient. This can be an important piece of information when diagnosing or treating a current illness.

Emergency Contacts
In addition to needing an immediate family member to be present for decision-making, you may simply want the support of family and friends while you are working through a crisis. Know who to call and have multiple phone numbers or ways to reach them. An emergency is not the time to be frantically trying to track down contact information.

The sheer amount of information that you need to have on-hand can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, technology is emerging that makes it easier for health care personnel to have access to critical information and less of a hassle for you to remember everything.

Organizations such as Central Illinois Health Information Exchange (CIHIE) are also emerging to help patients with data sharing. CIHIE, a Peoria-based nonprofit, was established by local hospitals and other health care providers as a secure way to share medical records instantly. Participating providers have access to:

  • Demographics such as your address, which insurance company you use, and emergency contacts
  • Allergies that you’ve reported to participating providers
  • Medications that have been prescribed for you at participating providers
  • Results of blood work or other laboratory specimens
  • Results of X-rays or other radiological procedures
  • Information about visits to participating providers
  • Recent diagnoses that have been made during those visits

While the region’s health information exchange is not yet a complete substitute for maintaining your own health history records, it is quickly becoming a tool on which both health care providers and patients can depend.

To learn more about Central Illinois Health Information Exchange and the benefits for patients, you can visit CIHIE is a nonprofit organization, established in 2009 by health care providers across the region to enable the secure electronic transmission of patient health care records between participating offices.