From QR to ER: QR Codes for Hospitals and Emergency Care

hospitalQR Codes have been used effectively in advertising campaigns to disseminate information quickly. Now they are being used to help save lives in emergency situations, too. By using a mobile device, paramedics and other emergency health personnel can quickly access the patient's medical information simply by scanning a QR code.

Lifesquare Inc., the company that created this pioneering service, is revolutionizing emergency care by making medical information instantly accessible through durable stickers with QR codes. In case of an emergency, emergency medical technicians (EMT) and authorized paramedics can instantly view the patient's medical information using a mobile device. This saves precious time during emergency situations and helps provide patients the best possible care.

“We see an enormous need in the US healthcare system to improve information connectivity between individuals and their physicians, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers,” said Peter Livingston, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Lifesquare, Inc. “We are developing services that are eliminating costly, error-prone, repetitive data entry, and have the potential to save lives. An emergency services product is the perfect first step because it applies to everyone. The right information about a patient, at the right time, can facilitate the fastest, most appropriate treatment, reduce errors, and save money for our healthcare system.”

Lifesquare is only available initially in Marin County, California, where two emergency response agencies are testing it on a year long pilot program. Lifesquare bought 50 iPhones for use by emergency medical workers in the county. Other counties in the San Francisco Bay area are also interested in the program, but Lifesquare is focusing on Marin County at the moment.

"When Lifesquare approached us about implementing the service, we thought it was a great idea," said Mike Giannini, Marin County Fire Department EMS Battalion Chief. "Paramedics spend a great deal of time gathering basic information. If we can access this information quickly and accurately, we can provide a higher level of care.”

Lifesquare users simply sign up online or at CVS pharmacies. They enter personal information that would be useful in an emergency situation such as name, allergies, physician's name, medications, emergency contact information, insurance information and preferred hospital. A profile can be created for each family member.

The medical information is stored in secure, redundant and fully HIPAA-compliant servers, and accessible only by a secure application. The information is viewable only in an emergency by authorized paramedics for a short period of time.

Users are mailed waterproof and UV-resistant QR code stickers that can be placed on phones, bike helmets, wallets, lunch boxes, bags, canes or other personal items. This ensures that the medical information is available wherever the person is. The sticker itself does not contain any personal information, only an identifier. The stickers are durable and designed to last a long time.

"The way that we look at is that people already put their information into their driver's license, that's owned by the government, people put their information into credit card companies and that's owned by private corporations," said Ryan Chamberlain, director of public outreach at Lifesquare. "Here you own it, you put it into your own profile and nobody else touches it."

Lifesquare improves upon an idea that Giannini helped champion called Vials of L.I.F.E.. These are tubes that are placed in refrigerators with the list of medications people take inside. During an emergency, paramedics are trained to look for these tubes in the refrigerator.

However, the information still has to be entered by hand, and then transferred to a computer. The information in the tube is also not available if the person is not at home.

Because Lifesquares are portable and scannable, they do not have the same issues as Vials of L.I.F.E. During an emergency, paramedics will look for these Lifesquares on the refrigerator if the patient is home, or in their wallet if they are not at home.

Marin County also plans to buy a new electronic patient care record that can work with Lifesquare's software. This would eliminate the need to reenter patient information into the hospital system. The new electronic system should be operational by the end of 2012.

"It could benefit so many folks," continued Giannini. "The consumer for the peace of mind, (paramedics) for information at the scene, it's just a time-saving piece and beyond that it could do so much for health care at a much larger, grander scale if physicians embrace it. It will improve our operations from a time standpoint, making us that much more available for the next call.”


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