Healthcare has been a natural fit for the iPad and, to a slightly smaller extent, the iPhone. iOS devices can provide interaction with electronic records and other patient information as well as offer access to reference guides, medical images like X-rays, and even remote diagnoses via FaceTime.
A new program being tested in California’s Marin County aims to bring some of those abilities to paramedics in the field. The program, which equips paramedic teams with iPhones via a specialized QR reader app, is a joint venture with Silicon Valley startup Lifesquare. Its aim is to allow paramedics instant access to patient information using QR codes stickers.
As part of the program, residents of the county can pick up QR code stickers from CVS stores and register them online with Lifesquare. (alternatively, they can register online and request stickers by mail.) When registering the stickers, residents create a snapshot of important medical data including medical conditions, medications they take regularly, drug allergies, and emergency contact data. The data is stored securely – Lifesquare’s system meets compliance with HIPAA regulations for privacy of medical information.
Residents then attach the stickers to places where paramedics would be able to locate them in an emergency. Lifesquare has a list of places or objects that paramedics using its system are trained to look for, including places in a home like the refrigerator, as well as on personal items like wallets, mobile phones, and even bike helmets.
In an emergency, paramedics use an iPhone to read the QR code on an individual’s sticker. That process automatically populates health data into emergency systems, from which it can be forwarded to the emergency department of the nearest hospital.
The process is similar to other options that individuals can use to store key health details in a way that emergency responders can easily locate them, like bracelets, a list of essential details in a wallet, or even data stored in a mobile phone. One difference with Lifesquare’s sticker approach is that the QR code not only provides the information to responders, it also populates the data into other systems, which can speed response time since it doesn’t need to be recorded at the scene.
The move follows the attempts of some app developers to create health-related data stores on mobile devices for paramedics and emergency room workers – the challenge there is that workers will need to be able to unlock a device and locate the app. It also follows the more old-school mobile phone approach of added 911 or ICE (in case of emergency) to contact names – something that many emergency workers are often trained to look for on various handsets if a patient arrive unconscious.