New medical ID bracelets 'confuse' medics

Interactive band contains critical information, link, phone number so responders can easily access complete medical synopsis


By Roy Lang III
Gannett News Service

SHREVEPORT, La. — Many athletes have invested in what some believed was a security blanket — a RoadID bracelet. There's just one problem, first responders are unfamiliar with it.

Similar to a medical bracelet, the interactive band contains critical information and a link and phone number so first responders can easily access a complete medical synopsis in case of emergency.

The identification bands start at $20. For an additional $10 a year, consumers get the interactive version with 24-7 emergency response support.

But when Lisa Colvin, a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Louisiana-Monroe who is a cyclist, runner and swimmer, was recently involved in a high-speed cycling crash, EMS personnel were unfamiliar with her RoadID.

"They kept asking, 'What is this thingy,' " Colvin said.

That "thingy" is a vehicle to unlock potentially life-saving information.

"I kept telling them, 'Look at my RoadID. There are things I'm allergic to and things I can't take," Colvin said.

"I just assumed all the EMS people were aware. It's all over the television," said Colvin, who suffered a broken elbow, a dislocated shoulder and eventually battled MRSA Staph in a 3-inch gash on her knee. "Apparently they don't."

The chief of Emergency Medical Services in Shreveport, La., Nathan Tabor, had never heard of RoadID. He is in charge of roughly 600 first responders.

"Well that's a shock. Because we watch cycling on TV and we consume the magazines and stuff, we see the RoadID," said Ian Webb, owner of River City Cycling in Shreveport. "We all assume the first responders know about it. They are leaving out a link in the chain."

"That's the one thing you don't want to hear," said Mike Wimmer, co-owner of RoadID.

RoadID's website offers a laundry list of "testimonials" detailing how cyclist's lives were spared because of the bracelet and a pamphlet that can be printed and distributed to local fire houses and EMS personnel. The site, originally void of evidence of direct contact with first responders, now features a section on first responder outreach.

"If you're profiting from this, you have an obligation to make sure this system works," Webb said.

RoadID is set to spread the word about the bracelet with an awareness program in the next 30 days. The first mission is to place ads in magazines targeting first responders.

"At one point you think everybody knows about you," said Wimmer, who founded the company with son Edward in 1999. "You think, 'There are people out there that have never heard of us? How can that be?'

"It's something we kind of overlooked, going into this business assuming they're going to look for ID. We have to correct that problem. We have a lot of people who buy our RoadID and then go to their local fire house and first responders, but you can't count on people to tell your story."

Tabor, a 28-year veteran of EMS, said, "It's the manufacturer's responsibility to enlist somebody to give training. For us not to realize or not even know that they exist can obviously catch a first responder off guard."

Although the first responders didn't know about Colvin's bracelet, the attending emergency room physician was one of her cycling students and knew Colvin's medical history.

"I had a serious incident," Colvin said. "To find out these first responders don't know what the hell you have on you, and what that means, it's scary.

"You feel you're protected, but you're really not. It bothers me to my core."

Colvin has since gone door-to-door to fire houses and emergency facilities providing information about the bracelets.

"I'm going to do it. I'm that disgusted," she said.

Wimmer said the importance of having readily available information is crucial in almost any circumstance.

"People should have been wearing ID years ago, like wearing a seat belt in a car or putting on a bike helmet," he said. "If I was home alone and something happened to me I could be laying in my own yard and I guarantee you there isn't a single neighbor that would know how to contact anyone in my family and couldn't answer any questions about my allergies, my medications or my medical history — and that's in my own yard."

The EMS chief said he has been contacted by companies with similar products in the past, but no company has ever tried to educate him on new products -- they have acted simply as vendors attempting to sell their product.

"If we were to roll up on one with that bracelet, we have 600 guys here, and I would venture to say very few would realize what they needed to do next," Tabor said. "Any information we can get is extremely important. There are a host of directions you can go. If you find a person down, you're starting at square one and have to put the puzzle together.

"RoadID is a wonderful idea, it's just having everybody aware of it."

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