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Medical identification devices save lives

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record staff

Accidents can be a nightmare for those on medication or suffering from conditions such as diabetes. If victims are left unconscious or unable to communicate, immediate treatment can be fatal.

Quick information is needed by Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and the answer to the dilemma is to let somebody else do the talking.

Many times, the only things that EMTs have to rely on are medical identification tags that are on the person. But now there is a new device.

"I would recommend it for everyone, it can be very helpful, especially if they have a head injury or can’t speak for themselves," said Tricia Hurd, community relations officer for the Park City Fire Service District. "I would strongly recommend it for people who have medications or allergies."

Hurd, who also works as paramedic, says she personally hasn’t had a call where a device would have saved someone’s life, "but it definitely would have made it go smoother," she said.

"We do have calls where someone is unconscious or had a head injury where they don’t remember things," Hurd said. "It makes it difficult to notify and let them know where they are. Essentially, if someone has a severe allergy to a medicine or takes medicine that would interact with our treatment, that would be life-saving."

Sandy resident Chris Owens developed this unique medical identification device, Identification Devices LLC, using a flash drive that a person can carry with them at all times. The drive can be used on most computers and can show EMTs health information quickly.

Owens created the product in response to frustrations with going to doctor’s offices and filling out paperwork and having to remember numbers, contacts and other medical information.

About two years ago, "I was having a conversation with a co-worker about how inconvenient it is to pull all these different forms out of your wallet," Owens said. "All this wealth of information, it’s a suitcase of information you have to access on the spot."

The answer for Owens was to have something he could give to the doctor that contained all the information needed. Later, he was doing work on his computer and grabbed a flash drive. He paused, held the drive up and thought, "This is it."

Owens says it took him about a year to develop the product with the assistance of EMTs, medical experts and legal advisors. Now he is offering it worldwide.

"It’s been on the market for four or five months now," Owens said.

It’s a small device about the size of an index finger and can fit on a key chain, in a purse, a skier’s coat or can be clipped onto a backpack.

"It can go pretty much anywhere," Owens said.

There are similar devices people can purchase but the difference between them is cost, according to Owens. His product costs nearly the same amount as buying an empty flash drive at any electronic store.

"Mine cost $25 each. There are two or three other companies that offer them at $59 to $89 and some go to $200."

Owens says cost is not the important issue, however. His device is mailed to the customer with a blank form into which they can fill out the information themselves.

"When they insert the flash drive there is a form that has blank fields for phone numbers, emergency contacts, allergies, drug reactions," Owens said.

Other companies ask customers to send personal medical information to them and the company loads the information into a device and sends it back to you.

"All of these do it in a way that is problematic," Owens said. "Many of them charge a monthly fee for holding your records. That opens them up to privacy issues and legal ramifications. What if you’re HIV positive and you don’t want everyone to know."

If a person is sensitive to any questions on the forms in Owens’ device, they can choose not to answer.

"They put it in themselves and I have no access to their information," Owens said. "They are the only ones who retain their information."

Owens’ concerns when developing the product were "how is an EMT going to recognize this and how are they going to access it? Do I have the right program? Is it in a manner that is intuitive? Mine, it’s very intuitive, the form pops up automatically."

The flash drive displays the Star of Life and the medical caduceus, the universal sign for medical information. He’s revised the product and obtained the approval of many EMTs.

"I’ve been going around to all of the EMT responders in the area, training them on how to recognize it and how to utilize it. I developed it in cooperation with the authorities."

The Park City Fire Department was one of them.

"We thought the product was fantastic," Hurd said. "I definitely think it will be helpful for us in a number of ways. We’ve never had a presentation such as his or seen it hands on. He’s worked very close with EMTs and got some feedback from us.

"They’ve thought of a lot of things and put it in an easy format," Hurd continued. "The presentation of it was very simple, much more simple than I would have imagined it to be."

The device has options for what seems to be limitless information from a will with photographs to medications and medication dosages.

"There’s so much information it’s incredible," Owens said.

One potential risk, however, is possible identity theft.

"People look at this as, ‘How dare you put out something that promotes identity theft,’" Owens said. "There is no more information than what you put in a phone book. There is no Social Security number, no driver’s license number and no credit card information.

"If they don’t have a problem being in the white pages, they won’t have a problem (with the device), If there’s a field they don’t want to fill out they can choose not to, it’s all up to their discretion."

Hurd said most of the information contained in the flash drive can be helpful for EMTs.

"I was impressed with some of the information that can be provided for us. There was a large list of options and medications," Hurd said. "There are places that list allergies or insurance information that people don’t have with them a lot of times. There’s a place for notes where you could add details."

Hurd says someone who is not computer savvy and would like a device, they can call her for help in setting it up. She said the Park City Fire Department will put a link to the device on their Web-site and carry it in their shop.

In the few months of its existence, Owens has already seen success.

Recently, he had 168 orders in three days.

"I’ve sold nearly 500 devices in five months. I’m getting emails from across the country," Owens said.

One person who bought the device has Addison’s disease, an ailment that impacts the adrenal glands.

"She has virtually no energy in saying four or five words so she can finish a sentence," Owens said.

Owens set up the device for her and says she never takes it off her body. Two weeks after, "she had a relapse and was down on the floor. When paramedics came to her aid, EMTs recognized (the identification device), took it off her necklace, plugged it into a laptop and were able to treat her problem because of information."

That is one of an increasing number of feel-good stories Owens has heard from customers.

"I get lots of heartwarming e-mails saying, ‘My six-year-old is a diabetic and it gives me great peace of mind that she would get the proper care.’"

Owens says there are "lots of diabetics, hemophiliacs and lots of seniors," who have purchased the device.

"Accidents do happen," Owens said. "When they do, hopefully I can be a part of helping save a life."

For more information or to purchase the identification device, visit http://www.identificationdevices.net. For more information from the Park City Fire District or to receive I.D. training from Hurd, call 649-6706.


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