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In iOS 8, Medical ID could be a life-saver

Ryan Faas | Sept. 23, 2014
Of all the new features in iOS 8, one hasn't gotten a lot of attention -- and it's the one feature that all iOS 8 users should at least consider.

Of all the new features in iOS 8, one hasn't gotten a lot of attention — and it's the one feature that all iOS 8 users should at least consider.

I'm talking about the Medical ID record in the new Health app. Even if you aren't tracking fitness, diet or sleep — and fortunate enough not to be managing or monitoring a chronic condition like diabetes, COPD or heart disease — this is one aspect of the health app worth understanding. Although all other HealthKit-related functions are on hold for now, Medical ID is fully baked and ready to use.

The Medical ID pane of the Health app is a pretty generic medical information and history form. It contains much of the data that you'd see requested on a form when you visit a new doctor or an urgent care — birthdate, existing medical conditions, notes about those conditions or your medical history, allergies (to drugs, foods and environmental factors), medications you're taking, emergency contact (including relationship to you), blood type, whether you're an organ donor and your height and weight. The app automatically pulls your name and photo from the iOS Contacts app.

To add to or edit that information, launch the Health app, tap on the Medical ID icon (lower right part of the screen), and then click the Edit button at the top. For the most part, all you'll see are text fields where you can type in the appropriate information. The exceptions are the items at the bottom of the pane for adding one or more emergency contacts, which brings up your contact list and allows you to select from a list of predefined relationships and the fields for blood type, organ donor, weight and — all of which provide scroll lists of possible entries.

Having that information readily available when you need to provide it during an appointment or treatment is certainly a time-saver, and it ensures that you include everything that's relevant. That isn't where the real value of this feature lies, however.

The real power and value is the option at the top of the pane labeled Emergency Access, which sports a switch to allow access to the Medical ID panel from the lock screen of your iPhone. This means that in an emergency when you're unconscious or otherwise unable to speak or unlock your phone, an EMT, some other first responder or an emergency room staff person will be able to access the information. The same is true for friends, family members or co-workers who may come to your assistance.

They can do so by using the Swipe To Unlock Gesture and tapping the emergency button instead of entering a passcode. Traditionally, this has only allowed someone to call 911 (or the local emergency services number in another country). If you allow lock screen access to the Medical ID panel, however, there will be a Medical ID button to the lower left of the keypad. Tapping that button calls up a non-editable version of the Medical ID panel. In addition to viewing this information, the emergency provider — or whoever is accessing the information — can also dial your emergency contact(s) simply by tapping on them.


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