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Wall Street Journal Article Stresses Importance of Medical IDs

October 1, 2010

“The Jewelry Prescription: Medical Bracelets Go High Tech,” an article in the Wall Street Journal on August 31, 2010, highlighted the importance of carrying or wearing a form of medical identification (ID), particularly for individuals with complex and/or chronic medical conditions and/or food or drug allergies. It featured recent advances in personal medical identification.

Earlier versions of the traditional medical bracelet were limited. Most had engraved wording that warned a first responder only of an individual’s drug allergy, for example. Today’s bracelets and other medical IDs are high-tech, connected to comprehensive information systems, some of which can alert ER staff to a patient’s total health profile.

“Many patients have situations that are so much more complex than just the penicillin allergy that can be noted on a bracelet,” explained Robert Pearl, chief executive of the Permanente Medical Group, part of nonprofit health system Kaiser Permanente. “We also have to look for drug-drug interactions, drug dosages, or compare an old EKG against a new one if you are having chest pains.”

Electronically based ID systems are expanding. In 2009 Kaiser began offering members in Northern California a $5 flash drive loaded with personal information that can be regularly updated from Kaiser’s electronic medical-records system. The file is encrypted and password protected to ensure privacy.   

The MedicAlert Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides MedicAlert jewelry, now has necklaces, shoe tags, sports bands, watches and dog tags. MedicAlert membership includes a 24-hour emergency medical information and identification service. A recent enhancement is notification to family members in emergencies.  

For-profit companies are also contributing to medical ID innovation. One company has created a software program for patients to organize their health records on their home computer and load the information onto a USB device for ER staff access. Another company manufactures flash drives that house detailed medical information on pendants resembling dog tags. A third system offers members the option to upload their personal medical data onto a secure Web site. Members are then given a card with their ID number and the Web site address to place behind their driver’s license. The same information is also provided on key fobs and stickers.

Thanks to new technology, medical IDs now come in such a variety of convenient, privacy-protected forms that even the most reluctant individuals should be able to find a suitable one that they can wear or carry.   


Source: The Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2010