Cell Phone Solution for Emergency Medical Identification

Oct 25, 2016

As many people with diabetes know, carrying emergency medical identification (EMI) is an important part of daily life. It’s not something anyone ever wants to have to use, but it could very easily save a life in the event of an emergency. 

We’re excited to share that the Apple iPhones with iOS 8 or higher have a new version of EMI that’s easy to set up and carry with you at all times on your mobile device!
Currently EMI is commonly found in the form of wearable jewelry and wallet cards. Some people with diabetes even choose EMI body tattoos. 

There are many applications available on various cellular phone platforms that store medical information. These applications require the user to find and download the application, and the information is not always accessible from a locked home screen.

The new iOS 8 and higher software available on iPhones and iPads has an application called “Health” that allows a user to enter information that can be accessed from the home screen even on protected phones.

We learned about this update when walking the floor of posters presented at the American Academy of Diabetes Educators conference in San Diego where we met Jaclyn Pappas, RN, BSN, CDE, and Rebecca Crespi, RN, CPNP, CDE from Children’s Hospital at Montefiore/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. The two women studied the prevalence, preferences, and opportunities for improvement in EMI. 

During their research, Pappas and Crespi identified several potential barriers to wearing traditional medical identification, including stigma, sizing, lack of knowledge, and costs. Given the barriers with traditional EMI and the wide use of cell phones and tablets, there’s optimism that incorporating EMI into these multifunctional devices may help increase usage.2   

Mobile devices like cellphones offer a unique solution to the EMI problem because they are already routinely carried by a large portion of society which decreases the likelihood that the EMI will be forgotten at home. A cellphone based EMI would also offer significantly more privacy to the user as there would be no visible information on a person’s medical condition unless an emergency requires accessing the EMI, compared with medical alert jewelry that may be more obvious. Another advantage of cell phone–based EMI is that there is no additional cost for the service.3 

When a user updates their device with iOS 8 or higher software, the “Health” folder is automatically created. By opening the “Health” application and selecting the “Medical ID” option, patients can provide their medical conditions, medications, allergies, emergency contacts, blood type, organ donor status, and DNR requests. The information can be accessed on a locked home screen by tapping the emergency button and selecting the medical ID option. Other cell phone operating systems, such as Android, do not currently have a similar feature.4  

Emi Screen keypad       EMI Screen

Education of emergency medical personnel and the general public about how to access cell phone–based EMI will be an important factor in its success in settings where patients require emergency care, and hopefully other phone developers follow suit and give people with diabetes, as well as the rest of population, access to this potentially lifesaving technology.5 Please help spread the word! 

Pappas_Crespi_AADE_crop_555

1,2,3,4,5 Kristina M. Derrick, MD, MSc, Jaclyn Pappas, RN, BSN, and Rubina Heptulla, MD. Cellular Phones: A Way to improve Patient Adoption of Emergency Medical Identification.

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