Medic Alert or Alternatives?
June 18, 2011 4:23 PM   Subscribe

Time for a medic alert bracelet, but is that the best choice? What other choices are available? Are emergency USB bracelets a good idea or not? Special snowflake details inside.

So, it's time for Mr. Batik to have some sort of emergency I.D. for multiple cardio/pulminary health conditions, including being on warfarin. At first we though a basic generic alert bracelet; then we saw usb emergency bracelets and considered those, however, we heard some people say they would not plug in a usb to their computer for fear of virus (even in emergency situation). Also ... the immediate information of taking a blood thinner would not be available like it would be engraved on a bracelet.

We know about ICE on cell phone, but we change (prepaid) cell phone numbers every six months, often with different state/provinces. Which also means that contact information needs to be kept very current ... engraved phone # is out of the question. We do not have one central number to contact as our respective kids situations are currently fluid as well.

We travel fulltime, half in Canada, half in U.S. One of us is American, the other Canadian, with only health care ins in our respective countries.

I would especially be interested in Health Care workers and first responders input, as well as people who use various alert systems.

Also, is it equally important for a person on SSRI's and with many chronic but not life-threatening illnesses to have an alert bracelet of some sort?
posted by batikrose to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
i don't know much abt the alert systems, but with your changing phone numbers, oneway you can keep a constant phn number is to set up a google voice number. put the gv # on the bracelet and have your gv number set toring thru to your current phn number (easy to change). memail if you have ?'s...
posted by Tandem Affinity at 4:27 PM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

i got some great input from some first responders in this old thread.

the overwhelming advice was, go classic (in my case, not a tattoo, in yours, not a USB bracelet). also, subscribe to the service, their number goes on the bracelet and you can keep them up to date with your contact info, plus any longer instructions than you can fit on the bracelet/dog tags.
posted by nadawi at 4:32 PM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

You can use Google Voice to set up a single permanent phone number that will forward to whatever your current prepaid cell is, and then use the Google Voice number as the ICE and engraved phone number. It should be free if the forwarding is just to US and Canadian numbers.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 4:47 PM on June 18, 2011

Best answer: Medic Alert isn't just a bracelet, it's a full system that works sort of like chipping your dog - the bracelet has a number and with that, your critical medical information can be rapidly retrieved in an emergency. So I'd put the Warfarin on the bracelet and update MA annually with your relevant history. I wouldn't consider anything else, personally.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:06 PM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wear a MedicAlert bracelet. Totally worth it. My current one is well over 10 years old - after the sterling silver one I got originally kept breaking chains and links, I went with a stainless steel one. From a practical standpoint, I tried the typical drugstore ones initially - they're not backed by a service - they typically have what you put on them and the construction was cheap and the chain tore hair out of my arm.
posted by plinth at 5:29 PM on June 18, 2011

Best answer: If I came across Mr. Batik having fainted on the sidewalk, for example, I would not have any idea what I should do with a USB bracelet. I would probably assume it was a work file that he was transporting home with him. And even if the USB was stick was engraved with "medical instructions" or something, I would... plug it into my wallet? My tupperware from lunch? My phone? But a classic medical alert bracelet is a universal READ ME symbol that I don't think anyone would miss. Include the most relevant information including something that says "check ICE for contact #" if you wish. Then just be sure to update your ICE listing each time you get a new phone.
posted by kate blank at 5:57 PM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

mentioned in the thread nawadi linked: Road ID, similar to Medic Alert but marketed to runners/bikers etc. They offer it with or without the subscription get-current-info-by-phone/internet service.

(I wear one of their wrist IDs when I run, has been comfortable so far.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:27 PM on June 18, 2011

Best answer: As a paramedic I will tell you we don't have the facilities aboard our ambulances to get information from a USB device. (Admittedly this is in a mostly rural area.) Nor have I encountered one before. On the other hand, medic alert bracelets are omnipresent and EMTs who don't look for them in skills drills get dinged.

That said, why don't you contact the EMS providers in your area? (They may be with a fire department, but often are not.) They'll be happy to tell you what their data retrieval capabilities are, and what the best way of conveying emergency information is.

BTW, not to minimize the importance of a patient's medical history and current meds. (They're very important.) but the immediate treatment that is given to an unconscious person tends to be pretty standardized. There aren't many medical conditions that would change those first-line, life-saving steps. And the person who's conscious ought to be able to gasp, "look at the laminated card in my pocket," or some such.
posted by wjm at 1:48 AM on June 19, 2011

My family and I (for me and my grandmother) have been very happy with the service from Medic Alert. Thankfully, we've never had to use it with the EMTs, but it is a piece of mind thing. I found the bracelets (the nicer looking silver and gold tone one) to be sturdy and not uncomfortable to wear. It's been convenient to give the card (now a nice plastic) to my doctors because my meds and drug allergies/conditions are on there. Medic Alert had no issue mailing me new cards to South Korea (where I live/work).

So yeah, I think it's worth it.
posted by kathrynm at 2:25 AM on June 19, 2011

Google voice doesn't officially work in Canada, and they would need smart phones to use it fully. I don't think it's a great fit here.
posted by bonehead at 7:03 AM on June 19, 2011

To the EMTs...Would you dismiss a cheap generic bracelet with Do Not Resuscitate engraved on it? Must one have a recognized brand bracelet (i.e. MedicAlert, etc.) in order to have one's care wishes followed?
posted by Thorzdad at 9:58 AM on June 19, 2011

Response by poster: I had read the linked old threads previous to posting, but appreciate the references to them. We had earlier nixed medicalert because of the cost (which isn't much for the peace of mind and potential life-saving it offers) as we live on a tattered shoestring. However, upon reviewing their website, I see they have possible assistance, and we will look into that, and save up our pennies to go with medic alert as soon as possible. In the meantime, I plan on getting him a drugstore variety bracelet (to fill the gap, not instead of!). With 6 ER visits in past 6 weeks (2 by ambulance) and 17 days spent in hosp, going with medicalert is a neccessity, and I thank the posters for confirming this, and keeping us from going with a far lesser alternative.

@wjm ... it is good to know the capabilities of rural first responders, as we tend to be in rural areas, and as we are unable at this time (due to immigration issues) to settle down in one spot year round and must travel, at least back and forth between Can and US.

Thank to those who mentioned google voice ... I will look into it, keeping in mind it may not work for us, but at least I can check it out.
posted by batikrose at 10:25 AM on June 19, 2011

I find the MedicAlert pricing in the US confusing, so just in case you do, too: the basic (but more than sufficient) Advantage service is $39.95 in the first year, which includes the joining fee. It's $35 each following year. The bracelet or dog tag is $9.95 and includes (as part of your joining fee) free engraving. I have no idea if they screw you on shipping; I'm assuming they do.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:37 AM on June 19, 2011

Response by poster: DarlingBri, thanks for mentioning the pricing ... I was on the Canadian site and could find no bracelets less than $39.95! Went to the U.S. site and what a difference. Will definitely order from there.
posted by batikrose at 11:52 AM on June 19, 2011

Best answer: batikrose--Paramedic here. MedicAlert is good because the call-in service has more information than you can fit on an engraved tag. USB also has the capacity to deliver that information, but even in an urban ambulance, it's useless to me and him until he gets to the hospital. Whatever you get, make sure it looks like a medical alert bracelet, not a decorative piece of jewelry. I generally suggest people get both a necklace and a bracelet because first responders can be dumb sometimes, but I totally understand if that's cost-prohibitive.

Are you able to summarize his info into the character limits of a generic medical alert dogtag necklace? It might be more cost-effective to put something like "CHF - CVA - MITRAL VALVE PROLAPSE - WARFARIN (DOSAGE) - (PHONE NUMBER)" or, you know, whatever he actually has, on the dog tag, assuming it doesn't change terribly often. Then get a cheaper bracelet saying "(PHONE NUMBER) - SEE DOG TAG" for the wrist. MeMail me if you have questions or if you want help summarizing which health conditions are most relevant to fit a character limit.

Thorzdad--legally, in most states of the US and a lot of other countries, we would have to dismiss a bracelet like that. To cover our asses, the only way we are able to follow a DNR is if it is legally binding, which neither a generic drugstore tag nor a brand name bracelet is. Believe me, I feel the same way about resuscitative efforts even though I practice them on people every week.
posted by skyl1n3 at 12:30 PM on June 19, 2011

Thorzdad, as skylin3 said a cheap bracelet with "do not resuscitate" would be disregarded. In my state it's not just a CYA matter; we're legally bound to resuscitate anyone without evidence of a valid DNR order from a physician.

However, many states have a Comfort One program (or similar) to identify those with such orders, and patients with Comfort One identification (which may be a bracelet, pendant or wallet card) will have their wishes respected.
posted by wjm at 10:17 PM on June 19, 2011

Advantage service is $39.95 in the first year, which includes the joining fee. It's $35 each following year.

FWIW, the RoadID interactive service is included in the price of the tag the first year, $9.99/year after.

I don't know how effective their phone/web service is; I have only their basic version (information only on the tag), mostly to provide ID, emergency-contact, and basic medical (age, blood group, allergy, insurance) info when I'm out running.

Medic-Alert has the brand recognition, but I assume "an engraved tag on a brightly-colored wristband" is going to be fairly obvious to first responders.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:30 AM on June 20, 2011

« Older Taking a semester off. Bad idea?   |   where to live in minneapolis Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.