I try to keep many details of my personal life out of the blog. Mostly, I do this to keep the topics ‘compartmentalized’ and keep the focus on cycling, training, and racing. Sometimes my personal and cycling life come together to inform a topic, as in today’s post.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m a Paramedic in my day job. I’ve been working on an ambulance full time for about eight years. I’m also an optimistic person and positive thinker, but when I heard of Road ID, I thought it was a gimmick and wouldn’t go anywhere. After a few years of increasing popularity and high profile endorsements, Road ID is obviously here to stay. But that doesn’t mean it is worth your money.
The Sales Pitch:
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or doctor. I can only speak with certainty in regards to the Boulder County EMS Protocols, although from my understanding, our procedures are similar to other areas of the United States.
The main problem with the above advertisement is consent. If we encounter a patient as above, ‘overheated, passed out…disoriented’, they would not be allowed to refuse medical care. If a patient is unable to understand the nature of their illness and associated risks with refusing medical treatment, they are treated under implied consent. Implied consent is a legal standard which assumes consent is implied under the rationale that the patient would have consented to emergency treatment when faced with a life-threatening event.
The next problem with the above advertisement, is that someone’s spouse generally has no immediate legal authority. There may be a Living Will or Durable Medical Power of Attorney, but these documents are much too complex for EMS providers to use during an emergency. (We are advised to contact a base physician if we’re presented with these documents in conflict with our care, a situation I have not yet encountered.) You may also recall the case of Terry Schiavo. The long running case focused on what her wishes would have been, not the desires of her husband or family.
I decided to write this post when I read about a fellow blogger involved in a crash. He wrote that the EMTs hadn’t seen a Road ID before, and were surprised to see his. Another commenter on his blog mentioned the same thing. In fact, Road ID has had to start an awareness campaign specifically for First Responders.
The main reason for lack of awareness from First Responders is the irrelevance of the Road ID information. Since many critically sick and injured patients are unconscious, emergency treatments are designed to be safe and effective in almost all instances, regardless of medical history and/or medications. Sure, having demographic information (age, phone, address) is helpful, but the hospital is happy to save the life of “John Doe” and figure the rest out later.
Emergency Contact Information:
This is one area where Road ID may be helpful, if only slightly. You may have heard of a pesky medical privacy law, HIPAA. The law states that “Protected Health Information” (including the fact you are at a particular hospital) can’t be disclosed with authorization “in writing”. Does wearing a Road ID which states “In case of emergency contact 555-1212″ constitute authorization in writing? Probably yes, but due to HIPAA, the hospital is wary to contact anyone except in the most dire of circumstances. I can tell you that as a Paramedic, I won’t be calling anyone’s number on a bracelet. Due to medical privacy, I won’t call anyone unless specifically requested, and I usually don’t have time for that sort of thing anyway.
I’ll touch briefly on keeping an entry “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) in your cell phone. Most hospital staff are aware of this, and I know of it being used in a very rare and dire circumstance in the ICU for an unidentified patient. This may be useful, but recently dialed numbers will also probably work just as well if such a situation arises. The police are also very good at finding out who people are and can use resources such as the registered owner of the cell phone, etc.
There may be rare instances where a key piece of medical knowledge may be helpful for First Responders. But keep in mind that Paramedics encounter patients with heart problems, diabetes, and seizures every day who do not wear Medical Alert tags or Road ID, and they are used to dealing with these problems without any assistance.
Perhaps if you are seriously allergic to a common emergency drug, or have a rare disease which may alter the course of your treatment, a Medical Alert tag would be a good option. But trust me, if you are diabetic and pass out of the side of the road with hypoglycemia, the Paramedics will figure it out without the help of your Road ID.
The Road ID may give peace of mind, but you may not be getting the value you expect out of it. First Responders are used to encountering patients without any information and have treatment guidelines which are effective for nearly all emergency situations. If you believe that contacting your family immediately is of the utmost importance if you’re critically injured, Road ID may be helpful.
Personally, I just carry my cellphone and $20 under the insole of my shoe.