The Wall Street Journal has a very good article covering the well-known “medical alert bracelet,” and its many modern spin-offs. When a patient comes into the emergency room they don’t always have the mental faculty to answer important questions about their medical conditions, and their family members are often not immediately available. Medical alert bracelet systems help convey to doctors critical information about patients quickly so that they can focus on delivering good care and avoiding devastating medical errors. The options available include standard engraved bracelets, pre-loaded flash drives, and cards containing login info for websites loaded with a patient’s info.
The system, however, is not perfect. Most of these medical alert systems cost a decent amount of money, and require extra effort either on the patient’s or doctor’s part unless it is integrated with an electronic medical record system like Kaiser Permanente’s. Another issue is that because there are so many different medical alert systems, doctors and first responders might not know how to access all the information, or might not be able to access it quickly enough.
Here is a clip from the article:
New bracelets and other medical-identification systems can fill in first responders on practically a patient’s complete health history. They’re a far cry from the simple identification bracelets of the past, which with a few engraved words informed medics that a person was, perhaps, allergic to penicillin. 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.
Of course, wearing the traditional clunky metal medical-alert bracelets might be a turnoff to some, and too visible a reminder of a disease or condition. That’s one reason a number of jewelry companies make bracelets, necklaces and watches that look like real bling—Tiffany & Co. has a gold bracelet for $2,250, for instance—and some pendants can easily be hidden under clothes…
"Many patients have situations that are so much more complex than just the penicillin allergy that can be noted on a bracelet," says 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," he says. Kaiser last year 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.