Could You Handle a Health Emergency?

Spending a little time covering the bases could make all the difference if one of those wish-it-didn't-but-it-did situations comes up.

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Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) tell me over and over again how they wish people would do a few simple things now that could help them in a health crisis later. I get it: Nobody likes to think about scary things happening to their families (or themselves!). But spending a little time covering the bases below could make all the difference if one of those wish-it-didn't-but-it-did situations comes up.

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Set Up an ICE Contact

That's an In Case of Emergency name and number so EMTs know whom to call if you're unable to tell them. Keep it in three places:

  • On a card in your wallet, right next to your driver's license.
  • On your landline phone — place a sticker that says ICE, plus the info.
  • In your cell phone. Create a contact that reads ICE before the person's name. Keep your phone locked? There are ways to let responders access the number without entering your code, but each device is different. Google the how-to for yours — then set it up.

List Your Meds

EMTs can do their jobs better if they know what drugs you're taking. Keep those details (for you and your family), plus notes about allergies and important medical histories, on a card at home. Tell everyone where to find it.

Identify the Best ER

If there's more than one emergency department nearby, you can ask an ambulance to go to your first-choice place (if it's appropriate and not too far away). Get details about your options. Some facilities are trauma centers; others are better equipped for pediatric emergencies; rural spots may have to transfer you. Before you need an ER, it's smart to do the following:

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Ask every medical professional you meet which ER is best. Nurses, especially, have the 411 on doctors, wait times, and quality of care. Then go to (a site operated by accreditors for health care organizations). Plug in the hospital name and look for the Gold Seal of Approval.

Figure out where the stroke centers are. Research has found that stroke victims admitted to these centers were more likely to survive than those who went to other hospitals. Locate one at

Make sure the hospital accepts your insurance. Because your bank account is worth saving too.

Pick a day this week to take the three steps here. Then go out, have fun, and forget we ever had this little talk!

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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