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Refrigerator Magnet Brings Medical Data to Emergency Responders

EMS SignPost's solution features a magnet with a built-in NFC RFID tag and software on a cloud-based server to store health-related information about a home's residents.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 22, 2015

In Montgomery, Ohio, emergency medical services (EMS) providers working for the city's fire department are learning the medical conditions and prescriptions of patients during their emergency calls, in some cases, thanks to a Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID magnet attached to a patient's refrigerator. The system, provided by a Cincinnati company called EMS Signpost, enables county residents to store the medical data on a server, and also allows emergency responders to access that information via the NFC RFID reader built into an Android-based phone or tablet.

The solution, which the county launched a year ago, currently has approximately 160 households that are participating. However, it expects to increase that number as awareness rises, according to Julee Nies, the fire department's customer service representative.

The Montgomery Fire Department has distributed EMS Signpost refrigerator magnets to approximately 160 of its households so far.
With the technology, a Montgomery resident visits the EMS SignPost website and registers, entering his or her name and address, along with any medical information that would be of relevance to EMS personnel. The resident uploads a headshot, emergency contacts and documents (such as power of attorney, a do-not-resuscitate order and a living will), and also sets up a profile for each member of the family living in the household.

Staff members at the Montgomery Fire Department then receive, review and approve the data and issue an EMS SignPost magnet for that home. The magnet comes with a built-in NFC RFID tag encoded with a unique ID number linked to that household's data.

Each time an emergency call is placed from that residence, emergency responders can proceed to the refrigerator to see if there is an EMS Signpost magnet there. If there is, they can use the Android device that comes with the ambulance to read the magnet's NFC tag. The device then accesses the website, where the phone's unique ID is approved and data is displayed on that device. Responders who use their own personal NFC-enabled smartphones or tablets would need to type in a password to gain access to the information. If the responders lack an NFC-enabled device, they can type in the URL and enter a password. There is also a QR code printed on the back of the magnet that could be used by those with a device lacking an NFC reader.

If there are multiple residents in the home, the emergency responders are prompted to select the appropriate individual via a list of names and photos. The phone then displays details that might help responders determine what kinds of equipment or medications might be needed for that individual. When transporting the patient to the hospital, they can share the data they have collected on the phone or tablet with health-care workers at that location.

The Montgomery Fire Department first tested the technology at the Twin Lakes Senior Living Community, Nies says, with about 50 residents participating. Based on the results of that testing, it decided to offer the solution to the general public.

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