EMS World

OCT 2018

EMS World Magazine is the most authoritative source in the world for clinical and educational material designed to improve the delivery of prehospital emergency medical care.

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PATIENT CARE 42 OCTOBER 2018 | EMSWORLD.com E ven in its simplest form, a medical- alert bracelet can be a powerful lifesaving device. Wearers can plainly display their allergies and/or medical conditions on the bracelet's metal nameplate. This information can help pre- vent EMS and emergency personnel from administering the wrong treatment when the wearer can't speak for themselves. In recent years the medical-alert concept (note that MedicAlert is a brand name for the organization that pioneered this warning system) has moved far beyond the plain metal bracelet. Consumers can now buy a range of fashionable bracelets, necklaces, charms, and watches branded with their medical information—many of them so fashionable, it isn't obvious they contain data. (This range is even offered by the MedicAlert Foundation.) At the same time, the medical-alert concept has expanded to include wearable medical- alert USB keys that contain the wearer's medical history in digital form. The idea here is that first responders will see this flash drive, plug it into a laptop, and have the patient's medical particulars at their fingertips. That's not all: "The Tap2Tag medical-alert key fob uses NFC (the same wireless communications 'tap-and-go' credit cards use) and QR code technology to provide paramedics and other health professionals access to your medical information quickly and efficiently," says www.tap2tag.me. "It can also be used with any device that has access to the Internet anywhere in the world." Such technology represents an enormous breakthrough, capable of providing a noncommunicating patient's full medical history before treatment begins. The problem is that EMS personnel are not likely to avail themselves of this information beyond potentially spotting an obvious bracelet during treatment. They may not even see that. "When EMS arrives they are going to manage critical issues first: basically airway, breathing, and circulation," says Carol Cunningham, MD, FAAEM, FAEMS, state medical director for the Ohio Department of Public Safety's Division of EMS. "If they find a medical-alert bracelet, that's great. But we don't mandate them to search the patient for one." A Patient's Expectation Beth Vasil is a firm believer in medical-alert wearables for herself and her family. "My cousin, nephew, and I are all cancer survi- vors (Hodgkin's lymphoma), and one of the elements of our treatment was bleomycin," she explains. "Recently it has been shown that administering oxygen to these patients could be toxic." Not a fan of traditional MedicAlert jewelry, Vasil recently purchased a MyID-brand sleeve, "which allows first responders to scan a QR code or log in to the website with a unique ID number and PIN," she says. "I got my kids ones that are like watchbands, with the plate stating their issues and my phone number. My nephews all got black dog tags with a red cross on them and info on the back." After doing so, "someone told me an EMS friend told her they aren't trained to look for anything but the old-school silver bracelet or necklace, and a lot of responders don't even really look for that," says Vasil. "This boggled my mind. There needs to be a protocol for all first responders to do a brief scan of the jewelry people are wearing. I understand time is of the essence, but a quick jewelry scan—maybe while taking vitals, since most are at the wrist or neck—can help prevent a disastrous outcome from using a treatment that is benign for most people but could be deadly to others." As they grow sexier and more sophisticated, the devices become less useful for EMS By James Careless DOES THE PUBLIC EXPECT TOO MUCH FROM MEDICAL- ALERT TECHNOLOGY? A wide variety of medical alert bracelets are available. Photo by Beth Vasil

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