A new, potentially life-saving device has recently come into the marketplace that can enable first responders to access a person’s vital medical information in an emergency with just a ‘tap’ of their mobile phone. The device has been hailed as an important development in emergency care – particularly for those with a known medical condition, the elderly and anyone taking prescribed drugs. Tap2Tag Medical Alert uses near-field technology (NFC), which is most commonly seen in contactless payment systems for credit and debit cards. NFC technology allows third parties to access information from a device the Tap2Tag user carries with them – such as a wristband, key fob or card. If the user was to have a medical emergency, any passer-by or first responder can simply ‘tap’ the user’s device after calling the emergency services to access vital medical information about them on their mobile phone. This might, for example, include details about the user’s prescription medications or allergies – such information can aid medical professionals in the appropriate treatment of patients. Having this information to hand so quickly could save crucial seconds and could potentially be life-saving. Tap2Tag Medical Alert is the invention of Chris Ford. He was inspired to develop the device as a result of his experiences when caring for his late mother. “A carer visited my mother four times a day and we always had to keep her medication up to date on a Word document. We’d print this out and put it on the notice board, just in case there was an incident and the paramedics were called – we always knew they’d ask for a list of her medication and allergies,” Ford explained. “So, we thought it would be a great idea if we could design a system where we could put the information into a secure place and then electronically attach that to something my mother could always have with her.”

Developing the idea

Tap2Tag epilepsy In December 2012, Ford was first introduced to NFC and realised that the technology had the potential to make his idea a reality. NFC is embedded into most smartphones on the market and is currently most commonly used for contactless payment and advertising. Indeed, when Ford first saw the technology in action, the demonstrator tapped a beer mat with his mobile phone and up popped an advertisement for the brand of beer along with the option of a free download. After just 16 months in development, Ford was able to launch Tag2tag Medical at the Naidex Show, the UK's largest disability, rehabilitation and homecare event, at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. “It was our first opportunity to demonstrate the system and the products to the public and the feedback was absolutely astonishing,” said Ford. Following Naidex, a formal press launch was held, hosted by Ford’s local MP Chris Skidmore, which was attended by the likes of senior operations manager for the UK’s South Western Ambulance Service, and representatives from Epilepsy Action, Medic Alert, the local mayor’s office and Gloucestershire County Council social-care department, which Ford described as a “resounding success”. Nick Evans, South Western Ambulance Service's operational manager, was particularly impressed, saying that he could foresee “huge potential within emergency healthcare” for the devices. Tag2Tag is also garnering a lot of interest from overseas, too. In recent months, Epilepsy Ireland (formerly Brainwave) has adopted the system for sale on its website and also as a free gift to those that sign up to the charity for two years. Peter Murphy, deputy CEO at Epilepsy Ireland, said, “Many people with epilepsy are worried about having a seizure in public and in particular about the inappropriate actions that can be taken when a seizure occurs. Devices which give information about a person’s epilepsy and seizure type can be very useful in helping passers-by know what to do if they see someone having a seizure. “We trialled the Tap2Tag wristbands for two months at the end of 2014 with a group of 20 volunteers and the feedback was extremely positive,” he continued. “We’re pleased to be able to offer these devices free of charge to people who become a member of our organisation and for sale through our online shop.” Interest has also come in from Sweden and from African countries, as they see this as an inexpensive method for individuals to transport key medical information.

So how does it work?

When the device is purchased, the user will set up their account online where they will input the information they want to disclose. They must input their first and last names, their date of birth and a picture that will be included on their public profile, which can be accessed by anyone. Any other information they want to include is optional. This might include: allergies, known medical conditions, medications they need and any message – for example, ‘Call 112. I have a heart condition. Spray is in my bag. Spray once in my mouth, then wait for paramedics.’ This can only be accessed by those who have a Tap2Tag account. This is so the user knows who has accessed their data. If the person does not already have an account, they can set one up immediately after tapping the tag with just a few clicks. The products retail from just €25 and there is no subscription fee to pay thereafter. The user can update their profile as many times as they like free of charge. As well as revealing the person’s vital medical information, the device can also send out an alert to the person’s next of kin to let them know the user is experiencing a difficulty. This can either be by text or email. The system has also been built to be used by those who do not have an NFC-enabled mobile phone, but do have internet access. Ford explained: “Every device has a unique code on it with instructions to go to our emergency website, www.tap2.me. Enter the code and here you’ll be able to access the same information. It’s a much simpler version of our main website and everything is printed on the band itself, so it’s clear what to do.” Tap2Tags are currently available to purchase direct from Tap2Tag and also through the Epilepsy Ireland website. The company is now seeking retailers who would be interested in selling the devices in their stores. If you are interested in Tap2Tag Medical Alert devices, contact Chris Ford on +44 (0) 845 5578 336. For more information, visit www.tap2tag.me.