Many Canadians take their health seriously and work hard to eat healthy and exercise regularly to live a long, robust life. Being pro-active about wellness is even more critical for those with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart conditions or severe allergies. For those people, there’s another important – and potentially lifesaving – component to wellness that is often ignored – wearing medical identification to assist in relaying vital information in an emergency.
The Medic Alert Foundation Canada is a non-profit organization whose mandate is to ensure that, with the help of their IDs, healthcare professionals have immediate access to a person’s vital medical information in the event of an emergency. A Medic Alert ID works by alerting healthcare professionals and first responders to a patient’s medical condition. The ID also lists a 24-hour hotline that can be used to access more detailed information about a patient.
“The simple truth is that a Medic Alert ID can save your life,” says Robert Ridge, president and CEO of Medic Alert Foundation Canada. “There are lots of people with conditions that medical responders really need to know about in an emergency. Medic Alert provides a simple mechanism to help emergency responders understand a medical condition so they can treat it properly. Medic Alert is sometimes just associated with people with severe allergies, but there are literally hundreds of different medical conditions that can mean life or death.”
The critical need for medical identification
According to Medic Alert, one in three Canadians have a medical issue that needs to be communicated to emergency healthcare providers in the midst of a crisis situation. Despite this, tens of thousands of Canadians have no form of medical ID alert.
“I think there may be a misconception about how easy it is to get vital medical information in an emergency,” explains Ridge. “I think there’s a belief that family and friends will be there for patients if and when they’re needed. But our recent research suggests that people are not necessarily going to be available when they’re needed to transmit that information.”
He also points out that during a stress-filled crisis, people can easily become confused and forgetful about their own medical conditions. “This is why IDs are so important. We train first responders [paramedics, police officers and firefighters] how to use the Medic Alert ID. They are the people who are going to come into first contact with that information. If they have good information, they can pass it on to emergency nurses and physicians who then take over from them.”
Medical IDs can be especially crucial for older Canadians. “They are more likely to have a complex medical condition,” explains Ridge. “They may have a suite of medical conditions that need to be understood in an emergency situation.”
New designs mix fashion and form
To make wearing a Medic Alert ID even more appealing, the organization offers more than 100 different types of identification designed to suit an individual’s lifestyle and fashion sense. They have formed partnerships with well-known companies like Swarovski, Garmin and Roots.
“We don’t just offer that original steel bracelet,” Ridge says. “It has morphed into different kinds of fashionable bracelets, necklaces, watches, shoe tags and even activity trackers. We know that for Medic Alert to be effective, that body-worn identification must be worn 24/7. The important thing is that our subscribers actual wear their Medic Alert bracelet or necklace.”
How MedicAlert works
To join the Medic Alert program, subscribers buy the ID type of their choice and then pay a monthly $5 subscription fee, which allows them to make an unlimited number of updates to their medical information. Ridge is quick to emphasize that, if the cost of a subscription poses an economic hardship, people can still join the program. “True to our charitable roots, we don’t turn anyone away. Our work is too important to discriminate based on ability to pay. We have a membership assistance program in place.”
No one ever wants to find themselves in an emergency medical situation, but it’s good to know that potential problems and even life-threatening complications can be avoided with the help of a simple medical ID.