By Cara Reed
special to Land Line
All truck drivers would likely agree that injury and illness can happen anywhere, anytime. Planning ahead for such medical emergencies can save not only time and money, but also your life.
Consider these true stories from the road:
A truck driver is brought in to an emergency room after being found unconscious in his rig. Hospital staff are unable to contact any family or friends to obtain a health history. Precious hours are spent running multiple tests when the driver’s collapse was actually due to a chronic condition that needed fast treatment.
Could this have been prevented?
Another truck driver has an infected cut and stops at a truck stop clinic to have it looked at. The physician there orders an antibiotic, which costs $85 – the price of about 18 gallons of diesel. The driver has no prescription plan, and no extra money in the budget.
Was there a more affordable option for the medicine?
Yet another trucker feels as if his blood pressure is elevated. He has had a headache for a few days, and his face has been flushed. He is usually treated by his personal physician on the East Coast. He needs to find a doctor while passing through the Southwest.
How could he find a competent health care provider?
Keep it simple, but keep it
You probably have a glove compartment full of important papers, from truck service records to fuel receipts. But you probably don’t have the most important document of all: your medical record.
Having some type of comprehensive medical record with you while on the road can be beneficial if you are taken to a hospital or visit a physician in an unfamiliar town. A medical record can better prepare any doctor to provide focused, efficient and timely care. It can eliminate unnecessary or repeat testing. It can also reduce errors and complications by giving medical personnel access to important information, such as allergies.
A traveling medical record need not be fancy. If you have a personal physician back home, request a copy of your chart to keep in your truck. Add any additional records you accrue on the road, such as copies of lab work or X-ray reports.
You can also keep a consolidated version of your medical history in a notebook containing handwritten information. Remember to update it with any illnesses, injuries or physician visits.
Medical information can also be stored on your computer. Numerous software programs are available to help manage your health record, as well as free Web sites that can help you create a medical record. There is one downfall to the electronic method: Emergency personnel will not be able to get to your record if you are not responsive, unless it is printed out and kept in an accessible place.
A traveling medical record should include:
- Name, birth date, and Social Security number;
- Names and phone numbers of emergency contacts;
- Blood type;
- Contact information for physicians, dentists and pharmacies you have used recently;
- Health insurance information;
- Health conditions, including dates of past surgeries and whether you have artificial joints, heart valve replacements, etc.
- Vision or dental problems, including whether you wear glasses, contacts, or dentures;
- Current medications and dosages;
- Allergies to drugs and/or foods;
- Recent DOT physical findings;
- Organ donor information;
- Family health history;
- Tobacco or alcohol use;
- Dates of any recent viruses, colds, toothaches, etc.
One important part of a medical record is an advance directive, a legal document that expresses whether you would like to receive – or refuse – certain types of medical care in the event that you cannot express your wishes yourself.
An advance directive addresses care intended to sustain life, including but not limited to breathing machines, CPR, dialysis and tube feeding. An advance directive with a power of attorney clause allows you to designate someone to make medical decisions for you if you are not able to. Ask your regular doctor to review your advance directive with you and make sure a copy of it is included in your file.
Not all health care issues require a visit to an emergency room. There are other options for drivers who need health care while traveling.
If you have insurance, you can contact your carrier for recommendations on out-of-town doctors. You can also search online for physicians in a certain geographical area. If you are concerned about a physician’s competency or specialty, several free Web sites offer background information on health care providers, including patient ratings and any disciplinary actions.
Many truck stops now have on-site clinics. These clinics offer services for the sick, mildly injured, and those with chronic illness such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Routine DOT physicals can also be done at some of these clinics, and many have affordable rates.
Diesel, dinner or drugs?
Truckers shouldn’t have to choose between maintaining their trucks or their bodies. Unfortunately, with the high cost of fuel and prescription drugs such choices are being made daily. There are, however, options other than the traditional neighborhood pharmacy that can yield more affordable medications.
Some grocery and discount store pharmacies have begun offering a variety of prescription medications for a flat $4 fee. For example, Wal-Mart has a program that includes hundreds of commonly prescribed medications, all at a cost of $4 for a 30-day supply. A variety of antibiotics are also included on the $4 list.
Most retailers with these programs offer customers a list of medications included in their specific programs. Be sure to keep a copy of the list in your truck and at home so, no matter where you are when you need a medication, you can ask the doctor to choose a drug from the list, if possible.
You can also ask physicians if they have samples of medications they can give you.
Finally, for medications needed on a long-term basis, such as insulin or oral medications for diabetes, blood pressure, depression, cholesterol, etc., check out the Web to see if the manufacturers offer reduced-cost options for qualified consumers. You can visit individual drug company Web sites, or call the Partnership for Prescription Assistance toll-free at 1-888-477-2669 for information on a variety of companies’ programs. The Web site for the Partnership for Prescription Assistance is www.pparx.org. LL
WebMD.com offers a medical record link and can help you find a physician
Cara Reed, M.S.N., lives in Old Forge, PA, and is a registered nurse and clinical nurse specialist in adult/geriatric health. She currently practices as a case manager in primary care and adult preventive health. Cara is the wife, daughter and sister of truckers and has always been interested in the trucking industry and, in particular, truckers’ health habits.