Navigating Healthcare – Patient Safety and Personal Healthcare Management

Joining the MedicAlert Board

MedicAlert

I am excited to be elected to the MedicAlert Board joining Jessica Federer, head of digital development at Bayer. As Barton Tretheway, CAE, chair of the MedicAlert Foundation Board pointed out

Their collective experience aligns with our priorities and will be immeasurable to us as we look to leverage the power of new technology to expand the mission of MedicAlert Foundation, which is designed to help save lives

Which succinctly captures my feelings around this additional role. I personally experienced the value of the MedicAlert solution, brand and promise when I practiced as an Emergency Room physician in the United Kingdom. It was part of the standard procedure for any patient who arrived unconscious or confused to look for the signature bracelet

Traditional Medical Alert Bracelet

 

With its iconic Caduceus (similar but different to the Rod of Asclepius) which was the traditional sign of the God Hermes and became established as the symbol of medicine in the United States in the late  19th Century.

History of MedicAlert

The Original MedicalAlert User – Linda Collins

The history of MedicAlert dates back to the Early 1950’s developed by parents of Linda Collins who had an who had an anaphylactic reaction to tetanus anti toxin (which in her instance she only received a small scratch test as was the practice in 1953) and had a severe reaction. She survive but her parents Dr Marion Collins and his wife Chrissie realized that she was at risk and made a paper bracelet and note that was attached to her coat detailing her severe allergy.

 

 

 

 

 

In fact the original MedicAlert Bracelet is now in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Today

The Original Bracelet stored in the Smithsonian in Washington DC
The Original Bracelet stored in the Smithsonian in Washington DC

From these modest beginnings things have developed with early recognition by “Peace Officers”. The California Peace Officers magazine even ran an article back in January 1957 highlighting the MedicAlert bracelet to their members. In the era before mobile phones and always on communication it was a reliable way of identifying individuals and providing immediate access to a 24- hour phone line linked to critical and life saving information for that individual. This function continues today with a live 24/7 Emergency Response Service

I worked on one of these switchboards as a Medical Student many years ago

 

 

with full health and personal information including your personal health record and emergency contacts information and available in other countries including Australia, the UK, Canada and South Africa to mention a few through affiliates and partnered with many groups including AAFP, Alzheimer’s Association, ACEP, Autism Association, Philips LifeLine, National Alliance of Mental Illness, Food Allergy Initiative – to mention but a few

The age of computing brought new innovations and the ability to more readily store and retrieve more information for members and track and follow membership and presidential recognition dating back as far as April 9-16, 1978 when then President Jimmy Carter commemorated the occasion of MedicAlert and their contribution to Medic Alert week in April. Even Hollywood got in on the act with appearances of the MedicAlert in everything from the Today Show and Good Morning America to CHiPs

and Columbo

Peter Falk in Columbo

 

Moving into the Digital Age

The organization is moving into the digital age with solutions around stored medical records, moving to digital mobile formats and storage solutions and even exploring the potential for RFID enabled solutions and in partnership with the American Medical Association has a joint venture on advanced directives.

Back in 1956 Dr Marion Collins commented that

“I think I can save more lives with MedicAlert that I’ll ever save with my scalpel”

Which is much like my own perception of medicine and the opportunity of Digital Health that I saw 30 years ago and continues to be the case. It’s this combination of a storied brand and concept from MedicAlert as a foundation and the opportunity to update for the new Digital world we live in that presents such an exciting opportunity. We are facing a Silver Tsunami of people who struggle to age in their homes and technology and solutions that help them do so, safely and with the support of their relatives and the health system will be in high demand.

I’m looking forward to working with my fellow board members and the MedicAlert team to continue the tradition and build on the brand with a Digital update and twist

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joining the MedicAlert Board was originally published on Dr Nick van Terheyden, MD

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