Purpose of a Medical ID
The purpose of a
medical id is to alert paramedics and EMT's to a patient's specific medical
or allergic condition at the point in time when they're about to administer
emergency treatment. It's certainly critical for persons whose
illnesses might render them unable to speak to wear a medical id bracelet or
medical alert pendant, but anyone involved in a traumatic incident like a
car crash could be in a state of unconsciousness when help arrives.
The goal is for the patient to receive proper treatment without delay, and
to help insure that she won't receive a medication that she's allergic to.
It's commonly said that a
medical id speaks for you when you're
unable to speak.
Your Doctor is the Final Authority
What follows is a set of guidelines that
will help you know what you should engrave on your medical id, but there's
no substitute for the advice of a medical professional. These
guidelines will get you started, but your doctor should be the one that
makes the final recommendation for the language that will be engraved on
your medical id.
There are four pieces of information that
generally need to be engraved on a medical id alert bracelet: diagnosis or
condition, allergies (if any), patient's name, and emergency contact.
There are also things that aren't needed, such as the patient's address
(unless they have dementia) and social security number.
Most people prefer to have personal
information out of sight, so it's most common to have the patient's
diagnosis and allergies engraved on the front of their ID bracelet, and
their name and emergency contact on the back. (note: although not all
medical id providers offer two-sided engraving, most
medical id bracelets can be engraved front
and back, and that provides more room for engraving).
Common Medical Abbreviations
There are a number of standard medical
abbreviations that can be used to save room (see below). Most of these
are international in scope and acceptance, but not all. Pay close
attention to the use of upper and lower case letters in the abbreviation.
Extraneous words should be left out if possible. For example, it's not
necessary to engrave 'Taking Coumadin'. Just the word
'Coumadin' is sufficient. And, rather
than engraving 'Allergic to Penicillin', just say 'No Penicillin'.
The same is true for food allergies. If you're allergic to nuts, just
say 'No Nuts'. If you want to say that the patient has no allergies
whatsoever, that can be abbreviated 'NKA'. 'No procedures in left arm'
can be abbreviated as 'No Proc's L Arm'.
See Other Side
If any diagnosis or allergy information
is being engraved on the back of a medical bracelet and the medical id would
have to be removed from the wrist in order to see the back side, it's best
to add the words 'See Other Side' on the front. It may use up a line
of engraving, but it helps to insure that the paramedic will know that
there's more medical information on the back. If the reverse side of
the bracelet can be viewed easily without having to remove the bracelet from
the patient's wrist, then it's probably not necessary to add 'see other
When deciding whose emergency contact
phone number to engrave on a medical id, try to select the individual who is
most likely to be available to take the call. It's unwise to use
someone who travels frequently, or who frequently has to allow their calls
to go to voice mail. Many people screen their calls and only answer
those from numbers they recognize. The person whose phone number is
used on the back of a medical id bracelet will need to be someone that's
willing to answer incoming calls even when the caller id is unrecognized.
Note: if there's not enough room for diagnosis, allergies, patient name,
and phone number, the patient's name can be eliminated, but it would be
better to find a different bracelet that offers more room for engraving.
To the left is a medical bracelet sample showing
front placement. To the right is a sample showing placement of info on
the back of a medical bracelet.