Medical ID jewelry has evolved. Those simple and basic necklaces and ID bracelets that people used to wear to alert others to medical problems, such as a heart condition or a seizure disorder, have gone high-tech, offering an array of data-sharing options so emergency responders can gain instant access to your comprehensive medical information. The new generation of medical-emergency bracelets and tags uses portable computer memory devices (typically a USB drive) or an Internet component to store and share your medical information. Here’s a sampling of what’s available:
• The CARE medical history bracelet is basically a USB drive you wear strapped to your wrist. It holds software and forms. It alerts emergency personnel that you have a medical condition and, once plugged into a computer (it works on both PC and Mac), downloads a detailed medical history. The waterproof bracelet comes in five colors. (www.CareMemoryBand.com, 866-798-4531, $19.99)
• Similar in appearance to a traditional dog tag, the American Medical ID is a USB drive that carries a summary of medical information. It is easy to use and update. The tag can be engraved with four lines summarizing your critical medical information, such as food or drug allergies or a seizure disorder. (www.AmericanMedical-ID.com, 800-363-5955, $44.95)
• Invisible Bracelet, a Web-based service supported by the American Ambulance Association, assigns each wearer a personal identification number (PIN) that first responders use to trigger a text message detailing critical medical information, emergency contacts or whatever other data you choose to provide. How it works: Your $10/year membership buys a wallet card, two key fobs and four stickers displaying the PIN (to be displayed in convenient places, for instance on your driver’s license) that allows emergency responders to access your information. (www.InvisibleBracelet.org, 918-592-3722)
• Road ID Interactive is an ID band, tag or pouch you can wear on your wrist, ankle or shoe. It is engraved with two lines of personal information (name, address) and a toll-free phone number, Web address and PIN that responders can use to get more details. (www.RoadID.com, 800-345-6336, $19.99 to $29.99, including free online access for a year, then $9.99/year thereafter)
• Medic Alert is the classic line of jewelry, now in an updated variety of attractive styles (for instance, made with Swarovski “pearls” or sterling silver), including bracelets, necklaces, sports bands, shoe tags and even a watch. These pieces can be engraved with medical info and also provide phone access to a 24-hour emergency service that provides more detailed information. The service notifies anyone you designate that you’ve had an emergency and provides information on where you’re being treated. (www.MedicAlert.com, 888-633-4298, $19.95 and up for the jewelry, plus a membership fee starting at $15/year)
How to choose
Daily Health Newsmedical editor Richard O’Brien, MD, a top emergency room physician and associate professor at The Commonwealth Medical College of Pennsylvania, in Scranton, told me that only about 20% of the patients he sees come in with any sort of information at all. He’s quite enthusiastic about these products and especially likes the flash drive devices, since they can provide comprehensive information (such as the date of a patient’s last tetanus shot or stress test) very quickly.
This is especially helpful for patients with chronic conditions, but Dr. O’Brien said that even healthy folks would be well-advised to take a few minutes to consider and make notes on their medical history in order to have important information at the ready in the event of an emergency. At minimum, he suggested writing down your information on an index card, having it laminated (you can do this at many office-supply stores) and storing it in your wallet, as EMTs know to look there.
I asked Dr. O’Brien if he had a “wish list” of information that emergency physicians would like to get from every patient in order to deliver the best possible emergency care. Here’s what he suggested…
• Name, date of birth, address(es).
• Your phone numbers, contact for next of kin or significant other(s), identifying features — moles, tattoos, scars, etc. — that can positively distinguish you from others.
• Contact information for your primary care physician and relevant specialists, including name, phone number, location.<
• A list of all known allergies.
• An up-to-date list of medications and any supplements you take.
• Information on previous surgery or planned elective surgery (such as an upcoming gallbladder surgery or a scheduled biopsy).
• Current immunization information, including flu and other vaccines, along with the date of your most recent tetanus shot and others as appropriate.
• List of other medical problems such as diabetes, cancer, etc.
• List of any medical devices that you have or use: Pacemaker, prosthesis, cochlear implant, etc.
Whether it is recorded on a flash drive, a bracelet, an index card or elsewhere, putting this information together and keeping it with you can make all the difference — at the very least, by expediting treatment in the event of an emergency and quite possibly even saving your life.