Making Medical Info Available 24/7

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A growing number of American adults and children have complex medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes. They may have drug or food allergies, suffer from disorders like autism, or take medications that medical staff should know about in an emergency. Anyone with a medical condition that would not be obvious to medics or doctors if they were unable to communicate should consider some form of medical-identification program.

An informative article on the subject was published recently in the Wall Street Journal.

New bracelets and other medical-identification systems can provide first responders with a patient’s health history. They can steer first responders to a secure website or toll-free phone number, or initiate a text message, to get the medical and prescription history of a patient who may be unconscious or unable to talk about their condition.

For some, wearing the traditional metal medical-alert bracelets is an unappealing option, and too visible a reminder of a disease or condition. That’s one reason a number of jewelry companies (including Tiffany & Co.) make bracelets, necklaces and watches. There are also pendants that can easily be hidden under clothes.

This jewelry needs to be linked to a medical-information service, such as the nonprofit MedicAlert Foundation, or emergency responders’ knowledge will be limited to what’s engraved on the accessory. People who don’t want to wear jewelry can carry a specially marked USB flash drive loaded with emergency data that medics can read from any computer in an emergency. Whatever identification system is chosen, doctors say, it should provide a way for responders to quickly access as much information as possible.

Many patients have conditions that are much more complex than can be noted on a bracelet. Last year Permanente Medical Group began offering members a $5 flash drive loaded with personal information that can be regularly updated from their electronic medical-records system. Privacy is a concern to some people, so the file is encrypted and password-protected when the patient’s data is loaded onto a flash drive.

Bracelets issued by MedicAlert are engraved with a patient’s member number and a toll-free number to access a 24/7 hot line for information. The service costs adults $39.95 for the first year and $30 annually after that. Fees for children are less. MedicAlert has also added services like notifying family members in an emergency.

For people whose doctors don’t keep electronic medical records, companies like MedInfoChip sell software programs for about $50 that help consumers set up their own health records on a computer and load them onto a USB device. American Medical ID offers a flash drive in a dog-tag style pendant for $44.95 that can be engraved with basic medical information and loaded with a patient’s medical records.

Another program, called Invisible Bracelet, does away with the need to wear a bracelet or carry a device. The program, a partnership between Docvia LLC and the American Ambulance Association, allows members to upload personal medical data to a secure website and receive a personal identification number for $10 a year. Members get cards, key fobs and stickers that show their identification number and the website address. The program is currently available in a dozen markets and is expected to expand. Docvia trains ambulance medics to use the system. The website also allows medics to automatically generate text or email messages to designated family members notifying them where the patient is being taken by ambulance.

We partner with DocuBank, which provides hospitals with access to your healthcare directives and emergency information, 24/7/365. We offer DocuBank as part of our client service package to ensure that your living will, health care power of attorney, contact information, and important medical information regarding allergies and drugs will be available when needed. We advise clients to carry their DocuBank Emergency Access Card in their wallet — next to their driver’s license or health insurance card — at all times.

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