Ryan Farrell of Timmins and his father were stymied a few years ago when paramedics asked them about a relative's medical history during an emergency.
“She collapsed in front of us and when the ambulance arrived, we could not answer anything the paramedics were asking us about her medications and medical history. I knew her well but didn't know that,” said Farrell.
His father knew the answers but was too distraught to communicate with the emergency personnel. Fortunately, the relative recovered but the incident got Farrell to start thinking about a way to get the information required by emergency responders out there.
“I started researching and found that with the technology we have, there really wasn't something that could provide that information on the spot,” he said.
That prompted him to start Canadian Health Matters (CHM) – along with a silent partner – which allows emergency responders to obtain medical information from a secure database.
Users register on a website and set up an account for an annual fee of $15. A wallet card and key chain tags with a personal identification number (PIN) are sent to the user. A responder can use a registered cell phone to text the PIN to the secure database, which immediately responds by texting the individual's medical information to the responder.
“A response takes about 25 to 30 seconds so it is fairly quick,” Farrell said.
Only registered cell phones can receive the text messages and only the emergency responders know what number to call to receive the information.
“Losing the tags with the PIN on them doesn't mean anyone can access the information. If a paramedic tried to use his personal phone, which wasn't registered, there would be no response.”
So far, the Emergency Medical Services Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board has begun using the platform.
“We have been working on this for the past two years and we are just getting going with this, but it is great to have the support in the Cochrane district,” Farrell said.
Emergency medical services providers in other areas of the province have expressed an interest and CHM is in talks with them.
“It is no cost to the paramedics. All they have to do is have the director sign a license. The information registered with a user also stays with them, even if you go into other areas of the province,” Farrell said.
“We are hoping it can eventually go national.”
Other companies provide first responders with medical information that can be kept in a vial in the fridge. A sticker on the door indicates the information is available there.
“That is great to use and easy to get to but it is only good if you are home. Once you step out of the house, it can't be accessed,” he said.
Even for those on the go, such as runners and hikers, the key tags can be attached to shoelaces so the users can be covered by the service at all times.
“We feel we have a better service. The information provided to the paramedics (through CHM) includes your name, date of birth, medical history, any allergies, your medication and dosages and anything else you provide when you register.”
Farrell and his partner will spend the new year marketing their service across the province.
“There is no cost to the paramedics and no real effort. It's something they might not use every call but in cases where it is needed, it can be life saving,” he said.