For those of us who have sent children off to college, we know the anxiety and stress that comes along with the excitement. The oldest child is often the most challenging because of the unknowns and then when the youngest heads off, it can leave the quiet in our homes sounding very loud. One of the things parents often ask is, “What if my child gets sick?” For the first time, we are not right there to “diagnose” what is wrong, speak to the doctors or nurses, or immediately participate in decisions related to a child’s health. Because of HIPAA laws, the doctors are not allowed to speak to us without our child’s permission, which works fine for a cold, cough, or strep throat. But what happens if something more serious occurs? Your child can’t communicate to give the doctor permission to speak to you.

For example, what happens if your child has an allergy, takes medication, or suffers from a condition that an emergency responder doesn’t know about? Or there is a decision to be made as to how to treat your child? All of this information can be critical to provide efficient, effective and timely care in an emergency.

So what do we do? Most importantly, parents should have each of their children, upon turning 18, sign a Health Care Proxy and Power of Attorney. giving permission to speak on their children’s behalf and participate in care decisions with doctors. The next challenge is to make sure that those documents are available if they are ever needed.

There are companies, such as FootprintID, which can provide a solution to the challenges outlined above and assist in closing the gap that exists in the sharing of health information. All of one’s medical information and health history, including documents such as POA and Health Care Proxies can be stored in one HIPAA compliant location. It is then immediately accessible to parents, the child, health care providers and emergency personnel. The information can be retrieved via web portal, smartphone app, or a 24-hour call center.

The college experience is made up of many components. Academics are primary, but also learning to manage one’s finances, health, social experiences, and life in general is crucial to the maturation process that takes place during these years. If we can keep our children safer by knowing their medical information is on hand and allowing us to participate in their care, at the same time that they learn to manage their own health experiences, everybody wins.