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Program tracks health histories

So you're diabetic. You're allergic to penicillin. You can't live without a dose of nitroglycerin.

How is a paramedic supposed to know your medical history after your frantic call to 911?

A little-known program in St. Petersburg can help. Called TeleMedic, the program keeps track of emergency information for residents who may call for a rescue unit.

"It benefits paramedics on the street," said Capt. Doug Lewis of the Fire Department's rescue division. "I's a quick history that will assist paramedics when they get there."

The program is voluntary, but some groups such as the North Central Neighborhood Association are recommending that residents use it. "This could save your life," reads the association's latest newsletter.

Residents can stop by any fire station to pick up a form that seeks basic information about their allergies, medical history and medications. Once the form has been returned, a secretary types the information into a central computer.

If 911 is ever called, a radio dispatcher will be able to relay the background information to paramedics. Rescue squads also will be able to take a computer printout with them when leaving the stations.

Although the program has been in place since May 1990, few people know about it. But some home-health companies encourage their customers to participate.

"Our social workers inform the patients about it," said George Jaworowsky, development manager at CareOne. But he said patients must fill out the forms themselves.

Once a year, St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue will send a new form to residents in the program to update their files. "It's an ongoing process," Lewis said.

Although St. Petersburg has an organized TeleMedic program, paramedics in other communities have access to the same type of information because all fire trucks and rescue squads are dispatched from the same Pinellas County computer.

Lealman Fire and Rescue, for example, also has a TeleMedic program. But most departments simply use the computer to keep track of information on addresses where they are frequently called.

Less than 10 percent of all calls to 911 contain information about a patient's medical history, said communications supervisor Todd Myers.

Of note, he said, are the calls to homes of sick infants who are connected to breathing monitors and heart monitors.

TO ENROLL:

To obtain a form to enroll in the TeleMedic program, stop by any fire station in St. Petersburg or Tierra Verde or call 893-7527 for a form to be mailed to you.

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