“Check the Fridge” Initiative to Get Medical Information to Fire Department and EMS Responding to House Calls

In a medical emergency at your home, how would the first responders know what medications you are taking, especially if you were incapacitated? 

For emergency responders, patient medications play an important role in assessment and treatment.  Keeping a list of current medications, allergies, insurance information and other medical information for emergency situations is important.  Having an accurate list ensures the safest, most efficient transfer of information to emergency personnel, the hospital and other health care workers.

Prairie Heart Institute of Illinois and HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital are introducing a program called “Check The Fridge” to aid Fire Department and EMS in getting current medications, allergies and medical conditions when responding to house calls quickly.  The “Check the Fridge” kit consists of a fill-in medication form and magnetic vinyl sleeve that can be put on the resident’s refrigerator so that responders who arrive at a home can quickly “check the fridge” to have access to current medications, allergies, medical conditions, pharmacy and physician information.

Why is it so important?

• More than 60% of adults in the United States who are over the age of 65 take at least 5 medications each week.  15% take at least 10 medications a week.

• Inconsistent recordkeeping and lack of knowledge are responsible for 50% of all medication errors in the hospital and cause up to 20% of adverse drug events.

• In an emergency situation, many patients are not able to speak or remember all medications that they or a loved one is taking.

“The Check the Fridge initiative will assist area EMS responders in obtaining a current medication list in situations where the patient is unable to provide that information. An accurate medication list can help EMS responders provide focused pre-hospital care which will result in better patient outcomes,” notes St. Elizabeth’s Manager of Emergency Services Brad Perry, AS, NREMTP, FP-C.

Dr. Jeff Shafer, Emergency Medical Services Director at St. Elizabeth’s agrees, “We can assess a patient and administer the most accurate and appropriate care much faster when we know the patient’s most complete medical story:  medications, allergies, medical conditions, etc.  Having that information readily available will ensure that we do the best we can, as quickly as we can in situations where seconds count.”

St. Elizabeth’s EMS outreach team members will be educating local EMS and Fire Department personnel about the program. 

A public educational program about the Check The Fridge program and take-home kits will be offered on Saturday, February 23 at the O’Fallon Public Library as part of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital’s “Healthy Hearts” event. After this date, kits will also be available for pick up in the main lobby of St. Elizabeth’s at 1 St. Elizabeth’s Boulevard in O’Fallon. 

Last April, St. Elizabeth’s was formally recognized as a Region 4 EMS System Resource Hospital by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and continues to offer partnering agencies clinical, operations and educational programs to further enhance relationships with area EMS professionals and better serve the public for all emergency situations.