If you’re cruising, you need to keep medical records onboard for everyone on your boat. You never know when something could happen and you’re suddenly dealing with doctors who know nothing of your medical history.
Setting Up Your Medical Files
I recommend having a one- or two-sheet summary for each person, including any crew you may have aboard. Don’t forget to ask for this information when you sign up new crew.
If someone becomes ill or injured, they may not be able to answer questions for themselves. Or if it’s your partner or child, you may be too stressed to remember all the pertinent info.
What To Include
When you’re setting up your brief summary, this is what you should include:
- Date of Birth
- Quick summary of known medical issues (tell details below – this is a quick summary of the most important things for anyone treating you to know)
- Allergies and adverse reactions (particularly food, medicines, bites/stings)
- Chronic medical conditions
- Prescriptions and OTC medications regularly taken, including dose
- Surgical history
- Any pertinent family medical history
- Names and contact information of regular doctors
- Who can make medical decisions if you are unable to. Include both someone on the boat who is likely to be with you, and someone off the boat in case everyone aboard is ill/injured. Be sure to sign this. If you have a living will or similar document, include a copy.
- Insurance and any medical evacuation coverage. A photocopy of cards – front and back — is good.
- For anyone who is not in your family, people to notify in case of a serious medical emergency. Remember to include their phone number and email address.
Addressing Privacy Concerns
If a crew member doesn’t want to share all this information, ask that they prepare a health summary and seal it in an envelope, then give it to you. Explain that you will open the envelope only if there is a medical emergency where the crew cannot answer questions for themselves. At the end of the trip, assuming nothing happens, give them the unopened envelope back.
Keeping Information Updated and Available
For those who are regularly aboard, be sure to update this information whenever anything changes. I also recommend reviewing it before any major trip. And also do a once-a-year review (say on your birthday, New Year’s Day, or some other significant date).
Keep this information with your boat documents in your ditch bag. If you ever have to abandon ship, you want this information with you. And if something happens where you’re not abandoning ship, you know where all your important documents are.
Dave and I also wear RoadID tags, which securely stores medical information online (read more about them here – a great idea for cruisers). However, I always want to have written information at hand in case the online info can’t be accessed.
I hope you never have to use this information, but the reality is that anyone can be injured or fall seriously ill. Heart attacks and strokes happen. Even “simple” dehydration can require medical assistance.
Be prepared. Keep medical records onboard so that problems don’t become more serious due to a lack of information. Or the authority to make decisions.