“It can be very, very difficult [to get that information],” explained South Bend Assistant Fire Chief and paramedic Andrew Myer. “As we know, when this happens, it happens at a stressful moment. Family sometimes isn’t thinking clearly.”
And sometimes patients are alone.
“People keep pills for a long time and sometimes when you do get to that medicine cabinet and you find 15 to 20 bottles of pills, you have to decipher what pills they're currently taking, and that can take valuable minutes away from our response time,” Myer added.
Right now the app can only store information for one person, but there is a voice memo section where you can record a message about your spouse, children or anyone else who may be with you during an emergency.
ICE Michiana also has unique “push technology,” meaning you or paramedics, firefighters and police officers can press a button on the phone and securely send your medical information to participating emergency rooms in our area before you ever get there.
“I think it’s a matter of the public awareness,” said SJRMC emergency room Dr. Jason Jaronic. “As people realize it's important information that will be helpful and they'll be interested in it because everybody has the same goal in mind and that's being taken care of as best and efficiently as possible.”
One of the biggest issues Gutierrez said SJRMC and the developers are working through right now is the “lock” setting many people have on their phone in case it is stolen.
A setting on the app allows emergency contact information to be displayed on the wallpaper of a smart phone so it wouldn’t need to be unlocked to call that contact, but the medical history still would not be available for first responders to see or send to the hospital.
The hope is to work with Apple and Android in the future to get an emergency code for first responders to be able to “unlock” the app if a patient has it on their phone so it could still be used on a locked phone during an emergency.
The app currently works with Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, Memorial Hospital, Elkhart General and St. Joseph Hospitals in Marshall County and Southeastern Michigan.
It also works with all 22 locations in the St. Joseph physician network, all eight locations in the St. Joseph outreach network and EMS and fire departments in St. Joseph, Elkhart and Marshall counties and southeast Michigan.
Area first responders are training right now to look for the app on smart phones when they get to patients during an emergency.
The goal, Gutierrez said, is to have 100,000 ICE Michiana users as soon as possible.
The team of medics, doctors and others who developed the app realized not everyone has a smart phone, but they thought of that too. Cylindrical plastic tubes called “ICE tubes” are available for free with the same ICE Michiana information available in hard copy format.
Anyone can pick up a free tube at one of 67 area locations and keep the “ICE tube” in your freezer so first responders know where to find it if they come to your home.