QR code, smartphone can save you in an emergency

Posted at 10:47 AM, Dec 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-23 10:50:38-05

For C.J. Wilson a trip to Louisiana stood out for the one thing he didn't expect to see.

The retired banker remembers seeing paramedics rush to treat a man who had collapsed on the side of a road.

"The poor man was having a heart attack and his wife did not know if he was on blood thinners. At that moment, it was very important," Wilson recalls.

He says paramedics were about to treat the man with a drug which would not have worked since the man was taking blood thinning medication. Wilson thought there needs to be a better way to tell paramedics about your medical history in an emergency.

So he launched My QR Life Codes in Boca Raton, making it publicly available this November.

"When they need medical help, we get those records and observations to the people who need them," Wilson explains.

The concept of his start-up is to store your medical information on a private server. It is accessible by scanning a corresponding QR code (similar to a bar code) with your smartphone's camera.

The QR codes are on wallet cards, bracelets, stickers, shoe tags, etc.

You choose how much information you want to be accessible. You can add information about allergies, prescriptions, medical history, and emergency contacts, to name a few options.

"You don't know where you'll be, or when you'll need these services," explains Wilson.

He envisions paramedics scanning a QR code on your person in an emergency and quickly being able to determine the best way to treat you. It turns a phone, or tablet, into a life-saving device.

"If you have these records with you, you have a much better chance of getting the services you need," Wilson says.

Capt. Kevin Saxton with Delray Beach Fire Rescue says getting the right information is critical. Typically, one paramedic is strictly assigned to getting personal and medical information on the patient they're treating.

Nearly every shift they treat someone who is unconscious and unable to tell them anything about their medical background.

"I find information to be one of the most helpful things for us when we're treating patients and trying to make sure we're treating them correctly," Saxton points out.

He says each fire truck and ambulance has a tablet with a camera. So it's possible paramedics could scan a QR code and access the information through the My QR Life Code system. He admits it would take some getting used to.

The QR codes include the Star of Life, which represents emergency medical services. Saxton says paramedics are taught to look for the symbol when they treat a patient.

"Most people are thinking they're not going to get sick, they're not going to get hurt," Saxton explains. "So most people are not thinking about their medical history, their medical information ahead of time."

Construction crews in Haiti are already using the system. GB Group is building a port in a remote part of Haiti.

Tanya Vernon is the company's compliance director. She says American and Haitian workers building the port wear QR codes on their hardhats.

She says the nearest hospital is 45 minutes to one hour away from the construction site. So if medics can access health information about an injured worker during the ride to the hospital, they'd be able to better treat the injury.

So far, there hasn't been an emergency to test the product.

"The good news is we haven't actually had to implement it. But for a remote site like that, it's actually really awesome to have that peace of mind," Vernon points out.

In 2014, Consumer Reports linked more than 400,000 deaths to medical errors. Wilson thinks this product could reduce that number.

Besides its emergency features, the system allows you to keep a diary and photo journal of your health observations.

You can take notes on how often you exercise, for example. Then have your doctor scan your QR code during your next appointment to see your log.

The website can also connect you with medical services in your area. If you need an MRI for example, it can compare costs at different clinics.

Doctors tell NewsChannel 5 they see college students away from home and athletes traveling for competitions getting the most from this system.

They admit if would take some training for medical professionals to consistently use the program.

Paramedics and doctors do wonder about privacy issues. They fear it would be possible for anyone with a smartphone to scan your QR code, maybe without you noticing, and learn about your medical background.

My QR Life Codes is only available to purchase online at this point.

Buying an item with a QR code costs $20. It includes two years of service.   The service costs $10 annually afterward.