Tricked-Out Medical Bracelets

September 30th, 2010 | Sources: Wall Street Journal


Many emergency physicians and first responders suggest that people who have medical conditions that would not be obvious to providers in the event they couldn’t communicate should enroll in some form of medical-identification program.

This advice covers tens of millions of Americans who have diabetes, heart disease, serious food and drug allergies, and who take anticoagulants like Coumadin, among other conditions.

People who decide to heed the advice may be surprised to find the medical bracelet industry has made remarkable advancements of late. Those simple, silver ID bracelets containing a few engraved words saying “allergic to penicillin” have largely been replaced by a family of high-tech gadgets that can alert emergency medical providers about nearly all aspects of one’s medical history, including things like their full medication list, prior EKGs and so forth.

Perhaps the most well-known bracelet provider is MedicAlert, which markets engraved bracelets that include one’s member number and toll-free access to a medical hot line. The service costs about $30 per year. 

Kaiser Permanente offers some enrollees a  flash drive containing encrypted health information that is derived from its electronic health record.

MedInfoChip markets software that lets people create a medical record and download it to a thumb drive. American Medical ID offers a similar device that comes in the form of an engraved pendant.

For people who object to the bracelets on aesthetic grounds, there’s the Invisible Bracelet. Members of this program can affix cards to their driver’s license, carry a key fob or wear a sticker on their bike helmet. All these devices display a member ID and links to a secure web site that houses personal health records. 

Even jewelry companies have gotten into the act by providing “smart” bracelets, necklaces and pendants that mimic real bling. Tiffany sells a gold bracelet for $2,250, for example. Rich people get sick too, after all.


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