THE BLOG

The Cell Phone: A Part of Our First Aid Kit

04/24/2013 06:09 pm ET | Updated Jun 24, 2013

We already know that the cell phone has changed the world.

At our finger tips, it can bring us countless new apps to monitor our blood pressure or calorie intake, and, in a crisis, it can help you find the nearest medical clinic, or get the fastest taxicab to a hospital. If you are lost in the wilderness, your cell phone can be traced by rescue teams, and it could save your life.

But there are a couple of other ways you can use the basic features of your cell phone for medical purposes. These are free, and don't even involve apps.

1. The Back of the Phone

Label your name, a work number or email to get hold of you. If you leave your phone on the bus, and the batteries are dead, how else will a good Samaritan be able to get hold of you? However, as with the labels on your suitcases, do not list your home address, as it could invite crooks to rob you while you are gone. While you are at it, you might also put down any drug allergies or other important medical alerts; if you are unable to communicate your issues in an emergency, the medical staff will be able to see it on the back of your phone, even if the phone doesn't work. Just to be sure, also use a permanent marker to put medical alert info on the back of your driver's license or health insurance card, both of which are usually reached for by emergency staff.

2. The Camera

Today's cell phones have great resolution with their cameras, and almost infinite storeage. You can archive photos in any way you wish. Use your cell-cam to record the following:

• Your doctors' names and contact info, so followup info like test results or prescriptions used can be sent after the fact. In an extreme emergency, it could also help attending doctors get direct advice from your own team.

• Any rash or other visible injury should be captured on your camera to help your doctor make a diagnosis. This is especially true if the signs have changed or gone by the time you see your doctor. This can also help document damage to your car or bike if you are in an accident; it might be important for both your medical and your insurance claims.

• Any prescription drug you ever get! This one can save your life. If you have just returned from holiday, and are finishing the last of your pills for a local illness, take a picture of the prescription. If you break into a severe rash the day you get home, and have tossed the bottle before you climbed on the plane, please don't tell your doctor that it was a "little oval pill," or that it was "kind of pink or orange," or that it "began with the letter "C." I have worked in emergency departments, and can promise you none of us will be able to guess which drug you are talking about -- ever! Each country has its own drug colors, many use different brand names, and some have blends with different ingredients. But all of them list the generic chemical names, which are, thankfully, universal. With a simple click of your phone-cam, you can let us know what that drug was. It could be the one good drug that works better than the rest in your body, or it could be one bad drug that might kill you with the next dose. Don't leave us guessing, and don't assume that your doctor's computer can somehow capture the input from another doctor's computer. We are not like the banks with their ATM trackers; medicine is still in its computer infancy. So please back up any important medical info with a click of your camera.

The same goes for an X-ray. Photos can be used to show us the exact fracture you got skiing. Or with an abnormal EKG, you can take photos so your doctor at home can see what happened.

For the same reasons, if you have any known disease, take a picture of any relevant tests before you leave for a trip. If you have any prior abnormalities, your baseline EKG or blood tests could prove very important to a new doctor that has to come to your aid in a distant city. And don't forget to take a picture of your list of medications before you leave home!

3. The Alarm

• For remembering ergonomics: Set it to vibrate every 15 minutes during your work day, and you will have the perfect reminder to correct your posture and add in some movement. Straighten your spine, roll your shoulders and neck, and pull your shoulder-blades together (see our blogs on neck pain, and back pain, the postural challenge). Also, straighten and bend your knees and ankles. No longer do you need a kitchen alarm or a "cuckoo" clock on your desk or in a meeting, now you can silently remind yourself without disturbing others.

• For remembering pills: I have one patient who reminds herself to take her birth control pills every day at 10 minutes before noon, for 21 days in a row. Then, the alarm goes silent for a week, before starting the next cycle of 21 pills. No more mishaps! This feature is also good to ping people who are on more complicated medications, to remind them to take their eye drops, pills, or insulin shots.

• To help with jet lag: Use your phone alarm to wake you at the proper local time, so you don't sleep until afternoon in your new time zone. Don't always assume your hotel will be perfect in its wake-up calls. If you do sleep in, you will mess up your body's clock for days, and have a miserable week of travel adaptation.

4. The Calendar

To remind yourself to call for your next Pap smear, or general check up, use your phone's calendar to keep your appointments past and future. If you need to go back for repeat tests in six months, don't trust your memory, just enter it into the phone. If you can't be sure of the exact date that far in advance, just remind yourself to call in to fine-tune the details a week or two ahead.

Some of these tips may save your life. If you think of more ways your phone can be a life-saver, let us know at www.stressipedia.com.