How to Buy a Medical Alert Bracelet

Three Methods:Identifying Your NeedsBuying a Medical Alert Bracelet or NecklaceBuying a USB or QR Code Medical Alert Tag

Say that you or a loved one has a serious medical condition. What happens in an emergency? How will paramedics know how to treat you if you can’t respond? What if something goes wrong? Medical alert IDs are meant for such situations. They let healthcare providers know that you have a special condition. They also often tell what it is, how to help you, and who to contact for you. IDs are available in all sorts, for children, adults, and seniors, and as simple ID tags or more technologically advanced services. The right one depends largely on your medical needs but also on your tastes.

Method 1
Identifying Your Needs

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    Keep your condition in mind. There are a number of medical conditions that call for an ID bracelet, including diabetes, severe allergies, epilepsy, hemophilia, dementia, and rare blood types. Finding the right bracelet will depend a lot on your specific condition.[1]
    • The “why” of your ID is important. The needs of someone with an allergic condition will be different from what someone with a rare disease or kidney failure needs.
    • Simple IDs usually have the universal symbol for medical emergencies: the “Star of Life” and the “Rod of Asclepius.” This is snake wrapped around a rod in what looks like a large asterisk. It is usually blue or red in color.[2]
    • You may also choose to include your name and other information on the ID, like your condition or health details and contact information.
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    Assess your care needs. Ask yourself what kind and level of care you expect, as well. What sort of action do you need during an emergency? This will affect the sort of information – and maybe extras – that go onto your ID.
    • Someone with dementia, for example, may need a medical ID in case they get lost. They might benefit from an ID with built-in GPS technology.
    • Someone with epilepsy may need an ID for care during a seizure, conversely, while someone with a rare blood type will need one in case they require an emergency blood transfusion. These are very different needs.
    • You may also want to think about privacy. IDs can have contact information. Some now come equipped with embedded access to your health records.[3] Think about what you would do if you lost the ID. Is the data sensitive?
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    Decide if you want extras. Based on your condition and needs, you can choose to buy a simple ID bracelet or one with add-on features. These range from 25-hour family and doctor notification systems to health information delivery services.
    • The non-profit MedicAlert Foundation offers a “KidSmart Service,” for example. This includes an ID and wallet card, notification and wandering alert systems, and medical document storage.[4]
    • The same foundation also offers packages for adults and an Alzheimers “Safe Return” service.
    • Extras may be beneficial for seniors who are in danger of falling, as well. Many companies can include a panic button on the bracelet or necklace, which allows the wearer to call for help by pressing a button.
    • If paramedics should know a lot about your condition, you might also go for a medical ID with embedded access to your records. Alternately, a medical alert USB stick will hold all your medical information. These can be placed on a key chain or worn around the wrist or neck.[5]

Method 2
Buying a Medical Alert Bracelet or Necklace

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    Shop around for prices. If you simply want an ID tag, there are a number of Internet companies that sell in them in many designs. Once you order, most of these companies will also engrave your information on the alert tag.
    • If you are internet shy, you can also find medical ID bracelets at larger pharmacies like Walgreens. Even bulk superstores like Walmart and Costco sometimes stock them.[6][7]
    • Bracelets and necklaces can cost between $20 to $250. In most cases the price depends on the material and make.
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    Choose a comfortable style. Medical IDs most commonly come as bracelets or necklaces. They are also made from a variety of materials. You will need to wear it often, so choose a type and style that feels comfortable.
    • Medical IDs are now also available to look like fashion accessories. Find something that looks good on you in addition to being comfortable.
    • It’s up to you whether to go with a necklace or bracelet. Both range from simple designs to more elaborate models with bangles or charms. Some companies also offer “gendered” choices, like dogtags for men.
    • Still, make sure that the medical alert insignia is easily visible. Although bracelets have become more attractive in recent years, you don’t want to disguise your reason for wearing it.
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    Choose the right material. You should be able to pick from metal (stainless steel, nickel, gold, silver), leather, silicone, bead, or even nylon sports-band. Whatever the material, most IDs will still come with a metal plate carrying the Star of Life insignia.
    • Keep in mind any allergies to metal. Some stainless steel has a small amount of nickel and could cause a reaction. Opt for a hypoallergenic metal like surgical grade steel or gold in that case.[8]
    • Your daily activity might also have an impact. Choose a material like metal over less durable weave or beads if you are afraid of losing the ID.
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    Double-check before buying. When you’ve settled on an ID, make sure that it will perform its basic function. Measure your wrist (or neck) to ensure you have the right fit. You’ll want to make sure that your bracelet cannot slip off.
    • Also make sure that there is room on your ID for personal information, including your condition and, if applicable, the emergency response line for your membership service.
    • Buy more than one bracelet, just in case. You can also choose two different styles for variation or to match your wardrobe.
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    Fill out the order form carefully. You may be ordering from a company that pre-engraves the ID before they ship it. In this case, be sure to include all info, including your name, condition, and emergency contact numbers.
    • To ensure your medical information is as accurate as possible, it may be best to consult your doctor or to have him or her fill in these details for you.

Method 3
Buying a USB or QR Code Medical Alert Tag

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    Weigh the advantages. USB and QR alert tags work differently than normal IDs. Instead of engraved information, they encode your medical records. USB tags have a built in USB stick with your information, while QR Code tags are scannable with a smart phone. It may be advantageous for you to have one of these models.
    • Because of the memory space, USB and QR Code tags carry a lot more information for paramedics than a regular ID tag. This includes your condition, your medical history, your meds, and your contact information.
    • QR Code tags keep information online. This makes their storage space virtually unlimited.
    • Ease of access is another advantage. Medical professionals can get to your records almost instantly. With a normal tag, even one with a service package, they might have to call a phone number or your physician.
    • On the other hand, privacy may be an issue for some of these devices. The ease of access, while an advantage in an emergency, could make it easier for someone to access your personal data if you lose the ID.
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    Shop around. You might think that a USB or QR Code tag will be more expensive, because of the technology involved. This is not always so. Most are made from plastic and are quite reasonably priced. However, for QR Code tags you may have to sign up for a subscription service with your purchase.
    • Most models will cost between $10 and $50. They come in both bracelets and necklaces, but also keyrings and wallet cards. Many models also come with warranties against theft and accidental damage.
    • Like normal IDs, you can find a variety of styles, colors, and materials. Even some QR Code tags are made from steel.
    • The “My ID Dogtag Necklace” is a QR Code tag, for example. It costs $35 and comes with a one-year subscription to a premium service that costs $25 per year. If you choose not to renew, you go to a free but limited plan.[9]
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    Input your data. Once you choose and order a model, you will need to input your medical records directly into the device or into a storage space. Do not forget to do this! Otherwise, your ID tag will be useless.
    • For USB tags, upload your information, medical documents, and contacts yourself. Models usually come with preloaded software. Just insert the USB drive into a computer and let the software run.[10]
    • Follow the USB software’s directions and input all the necessary data.
    • For a QR Code tag, you will probably get instructions with the ID about how to enter your information. Normally this is done online. The ID service will set up a password and profile for you, which you can access to input your information.[11]

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Categories: Disability Issues | Health Care and Medical Information