Many people wonder why medical alert tags are so critical according to health organizations. Doctors, nurses or pharmacists may from time to time advise patients to obtain and wear a medical alert tag or medical ID. There are a few reasons why this item is important and it is imperative that you understand the function of this item, especially if you have young children, take care of an elderly family member or have a pre existing medical condition.
What is a medical alert tag?
A medical alert tag is a small emblem or tag worn on a bracelet or neck chain that bears a message about the wearer regarding their important medical conditions that could potentially require immediate attention. Its purpose is to alert paramedics, physicians and emergency department personnel of the condition even if the wearer is not old enough to explain. Many people also carry a wallet card with the same information.
Why medical alert tags are important
In an emergency you might not be in a condition where you are able to speak for yourself, your medical alert tag will speak on your behalf. Also, symptoms of common ailments can very easily be misdiagnosed and a prompt diagnosis is critical to effective treatment. A medical alert tag with vital medical facts engraved on it will ensure timely and appropriate medical care. Studies have shown that almost half of all medical errors occur due to mistakes made upon patient admission or discharge from the hospital.
Wearing a medical alert tag protects you against potentially harmful medical errors. Do not be afraid that your medical alert tag will not be seen. More than 95% of emergency responders look for a medical ID and more than 75% check for a medical ID upon assessing the patient. A medical alert tag can eliminate trips to the hospital, prevent minor emergencies from becoming major ones and reduce unnecessary hospital admissions. They are proven to save lives and could save yours one day too.
A report from the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine reported on studies that shown between 44,000 and 98,000 people die every year due to mistakes by medical professionals. It also said that “when a patient is treated by several practitioners, they often do not have complete information about the medicines prescribed or the patient’s illnesses.” Your medical information is critical to an accurate, timely and possibly lifesaving diagnosis. Healthcare providers must often either start from scratch or act blindly, because they don’t have the patient’s relevant past history, allergies, or medications.
Who should wear a medical alert tag?
People who have on-going medical conditions, food or drug allergies or are taking multiple medicines should wear a medical ID. An engraved medical alert tag will present a correct overview of your conditions, medicines and allergies to a doctor or medic before they start with your treatment. Informing any medical personnel about your medical conditions and needs will greatly aid pre-hospital care.
A partial list of ailments or persons who should wear a medical alert tag
- Heart disease
- Clinical trial patients
- Cystic fibrosis
- Drug allergies
- Food allergies
- Kidney failure
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Cancer patients
- Rare diseases
- Tourette’s Syndrome
- Cerebral palsy
- Rare blood types
- Hearing, sight or mentally impaired
- Mental health patients
- Transplant patients
- Special needs children
Types of medical alert tags
There are a range of medical IDs available. The most common form is of course the jewellery which provides a logo or inscription indicting a particular medical condition. These tags are generally made from surgical stainless steel, sterling silver or gold and when found by emergency personnel, their inscription can provide an indication of your special medical needs. The tags are sold either with pre-engraved conditions on or blank for you to custom engrave them. The biggest benefit of these tags is that all the information is self-contained and does not require any form of technology to view in case of an emergency. Another type of medical ID is a tag that indicated membership to a medical information organization such as the MedicAlert Foundation. This tag will include a membership number and a toll-free number for medical personnel to contact in order for them to obtain full and up to date information about the wearer’s medical conditions, treatment and history.
Your medical alert tag does not have to be plain steel. There is a broad line of medical alert jewelry available to suit your style and taste. They come in stainless steel, sterling silver, gold and nylon. They retail from about $15 and many service providers offer engraving and custom sizing for free. If you do not want to wear a bracelet, you can even opt for a medical alert necklace.
The USB medical alert tag
This is a new type of medical identification and is essentially a USB flash drive that contains an individual’s emergency information. Since the flash drive can carry much more information than the ID bracelet, they can provide more detailed and useful information. They can carry information such as medications and dosages, existing conditions, treating doctors and emergency contacts. Emergency personnel can then access that information on any computer that has a USB port. The USB can also provide direct telephone numbers for care-givers and medical suppliers. Such a tag can also be useful as proof of a specific condition to law enforcement personnel. MedicTag was the first supplier of this device and it does not require any certain programs or installations to work. All you do is fill in the blanks and click save. It is up to the patient to make sure that their details are updated and correct. These USB tags are also used to help patients fill out medical history forms for insurance purposes or when visiting a new doctor’s office. It is convenient and easy to carry on a key ring or lanyard and FEMA and the Red Cross recommend that you keep it as part of your disaster preparation kit.
A medical alert tag comes in the form of a bracelet, necklace or a piece of surgical stainless steel that can be attached to an item of clothing. It is advisable that you consider this if you have young children who cannot yet speak, or if you have children who are mentally ill, handicapped in any way, are receiving chronic medication or suffer from rare ailments or diseases. Also, if you are a care-giver or take care of an elderly family member, you might want to consider getting one for them too, as you will not always be around that person to supply medical information in case of an accident or when a medical emergency takes place.
This little item will speak on your behalf when you are unable to do so, at a time when it is imperative for medical personnel to see to you. You need to be able to communicate certain allergies to prevent doctors or emergency personnel from treating you with medication that you might be allergic to. The other major benefit is that it is so extremely inexpensive, that you can easily change information, add new information or have extra ones made. If you are a member of a medical organization, you will receive a tag with a telephone number and membership number. In this case medical personnel will be able to contact the organization for a full medical history if you are unable to speak, do not have a loved one near or if you yourself are not certain of specific medications and dosages.
If you choose to have a USB flash drive with your medical information, you will be responsible for updating the information and making sure that telephone numbers, medication and dosage is correct. You can also print out this information if you need to fill in forms about your medical history for insurance purposes.
If you are a completely healthy person who does not have any chronic diseases, then there is no reason for you to wear a medical alert tag. If you have some information on an emergency contact in your wallet, that should be enough in case of emergency. However, if there is at all anything that a medical person should know if you were to be in a car accident tomorrow, then you should really consider getting these tags for yourself or for a family member or loved one. In this case, it really is better to be safe than sorry and these are the type of items that are only valued when you are in an emergency and need to use it. It is an inexpensive way to ensure the safety and health of the person who wears it, while being small, lightweight and convenient to carry around.
If you want more information on medical alert tags, consult with your general practitioner or go online to find a local supplier who will be able to answer the questions that you might want to ask.