Information on a Stick

Send workers into the field with their complete medical and health insurance records dangling from their key chain.

In the three years I’ve been writing this monthly column, I’ve never recommended a product or technology, but that is about to change, because I believe a gadget I’ve recently become aware of could be beneficial to many small businesses.

The gadget is a USB medical alert stick. Brand names include: My Med Stick, MedicTag, Medistick, MedFlash, Med-a-Drive and Emergency File. And there may be other companies making them that I’m not aware because it’s hard to keep up with fresh technology.

The best way I can describe these “sticks” is to say that they compare to the old engraved medical alert bracelet like an iPod compares to a vinyl record. Basically, they hold lots and lots more stuff. All of a person’s medical information — not just one small tidbit — is contained on a device smaller than a pack of gum. Each stick is actually a USB flash drive, loaded with software, which is used to digitally record a person’s entire medical history.

Many companies now package convenient software pre-loaded onto flash drives that carry bold red lettering and graphics to attract the attention of medical first-responders. There are also proprietary software products available, and some can be loaded directly onto a common flash drive available at any discount store.

You can also produce your own rudimentary version of digital medical record-keeping using Microsoft Word software. Just create a document with as much or as little information as you want to have available in case of emergency and load the file onto any USB flash drive.

Risky business

In the portable restroom business, you and your employees spend a lot of time in risky situations, like driving on highways and byways, doing strenuous lifting and walking around construction sites. It may not be the most dangerous job in the world, but it’s not without its perils.

A USB medical alert stick would be a thoughtful addition to the key rings of your employees because the care a person receives in the first hour after an accident, heart attack, stroke or other trauma can make all the difference in their chances for recovery. If a person is unconscious, valuable minutes can be wasted trying to determine things like blood type, allergies, other medical conditions, emergency contacts, even the person’s name.

Especially if you’ve got people going out alone, a medical alert stick is a great way to ensure they get the best possible care in the event of an emergency. If a person carries a medical alert stick, paramedics can plug it into a laptop computer’s USB port and immediately see a screen displaying pertinent information. And a laptop is standard equipment in most emergency vehicles today.

But a medical alert stick is not just useful in an emergency, it can be used whenever its owner has a doctor’s appointment. It is easily plugged into a computer in the doctor’s office to convey medical history and information to the staff and can be easily updated when information changes. Using it regularly in this manner keeps the information current, which will help in an emergency.

Choosing a stick

Medical record software pre-loaded onto either a key chain or cool-looking wristband costs about $50. The software should work instantly on virtually any Windows-based PC.

You can carry as much information as you feel is necessary on an alert stick. You may opt to leave out some information for security reasons or choose to use software that allows sensitive information like Social Security numbers and power of attorney to be password protected.

If you or your employees carry medical alert sticks, be sure to make it obvious. Provide stickers for the windshields of all vehicles they may use (including their private vehicles) and/or wallet cards so emergency people are alerted to the fact that the person carries a medical alert stick.

Sticks are available with storage to hold medical information not just for an individual, but a group of people. These are great for families with young children or traveling youth sports teams — if a player gets hurt, the coach has all their medical information and contact information available instantly, without having to shuffle through a file of papers.

If you think medical alert sticks would be a great way to offer some additional medical protection to your employees, check out the various makers — they all have informative Web sites. You may also want to talk to some local emergency medical technicians and emergency room physicians and get their recommendations. I’m pretty sure they’ll be in favor of anything you can do that has the potential to make their job easier some day.


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