Emergency information management needs and practices of older adults: A descriptive study

Int J Med Inform. 2018 Mar;111:149-158. doi: 10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2017.12.001. Epub 2017 Dec 8.


Objective: To better understand how older adults currently manage emergency information, the barriers and facilitators to planning and management of emergency information, as well as the potential role of information technology to facilitate emergency planning and management.

Introduction: Older adults face a much higher risk of sudden illness/injury and are the age group with the largest percentages of emergent and urgent healthcare visits. Emergency information (health information needed in an emergency situation such as emergency contact information, diagnoses, and advance directives) needs to be maintained and easily accessible to ensure older adults get appropriate care and treatment consistent with their wishes in emergency situations. Current health information technologies rarely take into consideration the emergency information needs of older adults, their caregivers, and emergency responders.

Methods: As part of a larger study we performed in-depth interviews with 90 older adults living in a variety of residential settings (independent living, retirement communities, assisted living) regarding how they manage information about their health. Interview sessions included photos of important health information artifacts. Interviews were transcribed and coded.

Results: Analysis of in-depth interviews revealed that emergency information is a type of health information that older adults frequently manage. Participants differed in whether they practice emergency planning (e.g. the preparation and continued management of emergency information), and in whether they involve others in emergency information and emergency planning. Despite its importance, emergency information was often not up-to-date and not always kept in locations readily apparent to emergency responders.

Conclusion: Emergency information, such as emergency contact information, diagnoses, and advance directives, is a type of health information that older adults manage. Considering emergency information in the design of health information technologies for older adults could address some of the barriers and support the facilitators to emergency planning and information management.

Keywords: Consumer health; Emergency planning; Health information management; Older adults; Public health informatics; Qualitative methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Advance Care Planning / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Caregivers
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Information Management*
  • Male
  • Medical Informatics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment*