medical alert IDs

Raising Awareness about Medical IDs

As health care professionals, there will be many times that patients, their families, or even just people who know what we do for a living will look to us for our expert opinion on a medical topic. One topic that might not be as widely well-known but can be incredibly useful for patients and the general public are medical alert IDs.

Many medical professionals have at least heard of medical alert ID jewelry. Although first responders and emergency personnel are the most familiar with these items, health care professionals in other specialties might find them a useful recommendation or topic for many patients. 

Here are the basics of medical alert IDs and how you may be able to apply that knowledge to your patient care and education

What are Medical Alert IDs?

Medical alert IDs are jewelry or similar items that people wear most commonly on necklaces or bracelets. They can be dog tags, pendants, watches, one-piece bracelets, or even specialized phone cases. Some are more technical and might include a small USB drive with information or a QR code that links to a webpage.

These items have a medical symbol on them to indicate that they’re a medical ID along with personal information that the wearer feels is necessary for a first responder to know about them in the event of an emergency. 

The symbol is important to let first responders to quickly identify it as such during their assessments. (In this particular article, the term “first responders” refers to trained emergency personnel, law enforcement, and the average bystander trying to help.) The personal information that’s important to have on medical alert ID jewelry includes:

  • The person’s name
  • Their emergency contact information, like a phone number to call
  • The condition or medical issue they’d like first responders to know

Sometimes, the medical alert ID is useful in identifying the person if their phone is locked or their wallet isn’t on their direct person. With the right information on a medical alert, it could also be used to identify and inform an emergency contact.

Useful information that you might see on medical alert jewelry includes the person’s identification, like their name, and any medical conditions or special needs that would be useful for first responders if the person is unable to communicate. Some conditions or medical concerns that might be useful for first responders to know include, but certainly aren’t limited to, the following:

  • Stroke disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Dementia, such as Alzheimer’s
  • Severe allergies to a particular food, medications, etc. 
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Special needs

Who Could Benefit from Medical Alert ID Jewelry?

The people who use medical ID jewelry tend to have medical issues that might affect how responders would treat them during an emergency. This can be incredibly useful for many people in our community or even your patients depending on your specialty.

For example, in geriatrics, a common condition and concern is dementia, most commonly Alzheimer’s disease. Patients with dementia live in assisted living facilities, retirement communities, or are treated by home health agencies in their long-time or family homes. Although they often have trained caregivers, it’s not uncommon for them to wander away and potentially become lost.

In many cases, the symptoms of dementia make it difficult to communicate or remember important information like a phone number or directions to where they came from. A medical alert ID would be incredibly helpful in these situations to help searchers or passerbys identify someone lost and in need of help.

Patients with other conditions in many specialties could see the same potential benefit. As a health care professional, be aware of options like medical alert ID jewelry that can help advocate for patients when they might not be able to do so themselves and get timely care.