The IPC managed nearly 77,000 exposures in 2011, and nearly 75% of these came from calls from the general public. In addition to providing expert recommendations and treatment advice, our IPC specialists collect information as well. If you have ever called the IPC, you may have balked at our request for certain personal information – ‘Why do you need that information? What’s so important about my zipcode?’ We ask for this information because we create a medical record just like at your doctor’s office. Most people expect that the receptionist will ask for basic information at your yearly check-up, and a ‘telephone visit’ with the IPC is very similar. And like the medical record at your doctor’s office, your IPC medical record is completely, absolutely, 100% confidential.
Here is some of the information we ask for and why:
Name: We ask for your name so we can tie the particular record to you. If you call back with a question or unanticipated symptom, we can easily find your previous call, especially if the person you spoke with initially is not available. You may be aghast that your child ate diaper cream but hundreds and hundreds of kids in Illinois do this each year; without a name on the case record, we would never know which one was yours.
Age: We ask this for two reasons. One, to help us assess the level of toxicity; the very old and the very young are typically at greater risk for complications of a poisoning. Two, this statistic is valuable to our database and helps us track trends in poisoning exposures among different age groups.
Telephone number: We ask for your telephone number so we can check back with you to follow-up on your situation. Checking in once or twice can ensure that the course is progressing as predicted and no unexpected symptoms are occurring. The IPC performed over 59,000 such follow-ups in 2011.
Health conditions, allergies and regular medications: We need this information so we can better assess the situation. For example, if you accidentally inhaled some bleach fumes, having asthma or COPD might change our treatment advice. Another example: someone accidentally takes their spouse’s or child’s medication. What needs to be done in that situation could change significantly if said person is regularly on a medication that interacts with the medication they accidentally took.
Zip code: This is another two-fer. One, we can use this information to determine if there is a poisoning outbreak in a certain area of our state (e.g. food poisoning, emerging drug of abuse). Two, we need this information for our funders (the IPC is a non-profit). Gathering the zip code of the caller shows funders that we are providing service to the whole state of Illinois.
Hopefully you understand now why we ask the things we do when we are helping you with your emergency. That being said, if you really would prefer not to give out your personal information (name, phone number) you do not have to. Either way rest assured that the IPC does not report any of this personal information to DCFS or USCIS (immigration) and we are not a government agency. So, go ahead give us a call – 1-800-222-1222. We’re available 24/7/365.
March is Illinois Poison Prevention Month. Celebrate my distributing free poison prevention information to your family, friends and community! Click here for more info on how to get involved.