One device that almost everyone carries could also help save its user's life.
In addition to making phone calls, snapping pictures, and sharing life updates on social media -- many cell phones now allow users to store important medical information for easy access in an emergency.
On Apple iPhones, the latest operating system comes with a built in “Health App.”
Inside that app, there is a section called Medical ID. Users can add emergency contact information, as well as medical information like allergies, prescriptions, blood type, and organ donation. Medical ID also features a “Notes” section for any other critical health information.
Users can adjust their phone’s privacy settings so all of the information stored in Medical ID can be accessed through the lock screen.
Virgil Shivers is a paramedic with West County EMS & Fire. On the job now for 20 years, he said every emergency situation presents a different challenge. Often, that challenge is trying to get information about a patient who cannot communicate with first responders due to the severity of the situation.
“So basically we’re trying to figure out all this information through someone’s purse, wallet, if they maybe have a list or something of their medications -- that's’ how we're figuring things out,” he said.
Shivers said some patients wear medical bracelets or carry a special card, but most do not. However, Shivers said he can always find someone’s cell phone.
“There hasn’t been a time that haven’t [arrived] on a scene that’s someone hasn’t had their phone or hasn’t asked for their phone.”
He supports the idea of storing medical information inside a phone. Shivers said first responders already look for ICE contacts (In Case of Emergency) inside phones, why not add allergies and medications, too?
“It would make our jobs a lot easier, but it would make my treatment a lot quicker and a lot better if I [know] your medical history and the medications that you’re on,” he said.
For non-Apple users, a quick search in the Google Play store (for Android operating systems) produces a list of similar free apps for downloads.
Danielle Smith is a parenting and lifestyle blogger, and among other topics, often writes about technology on her website, ExtraordinaryMommy.com.
Smith has an iPhone, and spent some time learning about the Medical ID section.
“It took me five minutes to fill out the information,” she said, “If I can give people like Virgil the ability to save my life, to save my children's life -- why wouldn't I do it?”
With the option of accessing medical information through the phone’s lock screen, some might have concerns about privacy. Smith said she believes the information she included in the app wouldn’t put her at risk, if her phone was lost or stolen.
“I don’t worry about someone finding out my blood type,” she said. “I think that someone who is has a potential to save my life can do far more with that information than someone who is intending to do harm.”
Shivers and Smith even shared one suggestion they believe could make medical information apps stronger: Designing an expanded section for family information -- especially for the user’s children.
“Where it would have the parents and the kids,” Shivers explained. ”Because if there are kids in the car and the mom is unresponsive than I know -- here [are] the two kids, here’s the information on the two kids.”