Team 10: New training on hidden iPhone feature

Posted at 11:30 PM, May 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-03 13:14:35-04

It is a feature on your iPhone that could help you in an emergency. Team 10 found many people don’t know about it, including first responders.

American Medical Response (AMR) employs about 800 paramedics.

“We do all kinds of training to make sure we are up to the latest clinical trends,” said Mike Rice, AMR’s Director of Operations.

Rice says if patients are able to communicate with them, they will ask questions from the patient. However, responding to a scene where a patient is unresponsive “happens quite a bit.”

First responders tell Team 10 sometimes, they will find patient’s medical information on the refrigerator door. Some wear medical ID bracelets on their wrists. However, with today’s technology, there is a way to put critical information on your smart phone and paramedics are able to access it without knowing your password.

It is called “Medical ID,” built into the iPhone. You can type in information such as medical conditions, allergies, medication, and emergency contact information. First responders are able to access it by swiping right on your home screen and pressing “emergency.”

Team 10 found a couple of people who knew about it, but many who were approached had no clue.

“That’s neat,” said Hayley Pinto. “I’m going to check it out when I charge my phone up... I never noticed it.”

The people in charge of saving your life in an emergency didn’t know about it either.

“I didn’t realize there’s a part in there where you can add your health care information and I didn’t realize you could access it while the phone was locked,” Rice said.

“It’s not something I had heard of… or really understood what it could do until I spoke to you,” said Battalion Chief Rick Ballard, who heads the Emergency Medical Services Division of San Diego Fire-Rescue. San Diego Fire contracts with AMR.

Ballard said all employees of San Diego Fire-Rescue are trained at minimum, as EMTs. Some are paramedics.

As far as training, they “typically do classes every quarter at a minimum.”

Ballard said technology has “changed the game in so many ways.”

“In the medical field, things are evolving,” Ballard said. “Now that we’re aware of [Medical ID], we are going to get that information out to all the people in our workforce.”

San Diego Fire and AMR plan to put out a training bulletin so their hundreds of EMTs and paramedics are aware of the feature and know where to look. The memo is scheduled to go out this week.

Team 10 also contacted Heartland Fire. A spokesperson said they also were not aware of the feature until Team 10 made them aware of it. The feature will likely be discussed during a future morning briefing.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Rice said. He believes this is something that could save a life.

Some Team 10 spoke with were worried that putting all that personal health information on your phone could expose it to hackers. Team 10 checked with a cybersecurity expert about the pros and cons of this feature. Watch the full interview in the video player above.