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Aussies tackle unidentified medical patient quagmire in Phuket, Bali

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Australian-based company IDTracker was launched to tackle the frightening number of unidentified foreign patients arriving unconscious or incoherent at Phuket hospitals.

The company’s simple, durable wrist bands provide a unique emergency identification code number that is linked to the wearer’s secure on line profile and can be used by medical staff to access insurance details, emergency contacts, medical history and other information pertinent to the care of the user, should he or she need medical treatment.

“These are not GPS or RFID operated; we wanted to be sure our system works anywhere in the world, and that it be water-proof, shock-proof and never subject to the death of batteries. Since it’s critical for your safety, we wanted to make sure it would always work,” said entrepreneur Maurice Behan, who is a partner in the project with fellow Aussie Steve Mansfield.

The product, available for about 500 baht, is a wrist band in various designs and colors that is marked with a universal medical symbol of red medical vectors with a caduceus overlay. On the side is typed: MEDICAL + ID INFO INSIDE BAND. On the inside is a website address and the unique ID and PIN number for the user. Medical staff only have to go to the website and enter the person’s ID and pin, and in a matter of seconds they will obtain all the data required to identify the patient and begin treatment.

“There are similar products out there but nothing as comprehensive, secure and cost effective as ours. We believe we have put together a wearable, secure and cost effective product that travelers will recognize as important and start wearing.

“We believe our product will be the leader in this market. We are concentrating on the tourism industrym and in particular the Southeast Asian travel market as this is where a lot of young Australians are travelling and being injured. However, this product works anywhere in the world and is now going global.”

Mr Behan recognized the need for the product, especially by young Australian ‘schoolies’, full-moon partygoers and those on a gap year, after witnessing an incident at Phuket International Hospital in 2004.

“I was in the waiting area and noticed a lot of distress coming from a nearby emergency room. I met with some young men who told me that their mate had a scooter accident the previous evening and they had lost contact with him. They went out looking for him and a witness told them about the accident and that he was taken away in an ambulance.

“They scanned local hospitals, and later found him – he was on a stretcher unconscious,” Mr Behan said. “The hospital was totally unaware of his nationality or who he was. The friends had him transferred to Phuket International Hospital, where it was determined that he had brain swelling and needed immediate burr hole treatment, which is drilling the skull to relive the pressure from the brain. If it’s not done early enough, there can be significant brain damage.”

The friends went on to pull together enough money to pay for the intensive care for the first night and then contacted his family in the United Kingdom to send additional funds. The man’s father arrived a few days later and took over managing the situation.

“What if he had not been found by his friends? What would have been the outcome? I spoke to a long-term expat at the hospital and he informed me that this happens a lot. Tourists, especially younger travellers move around the island without identification,” Mr Behan said.

After researching and finding the critical need for tourists to be identifiable, Mr Behan and Mr Mansfield invested about 2.5 million baht and established IdTracker.com.au.

“Absolutely, we think it’s a great idea, as long as the major medical providers are made aware of it,” said James Cawood, the international coordinator (HOD) at Phuket International Hospital. “The benefit of the bracelets, as I understand it, is that they can be worn at all times – even when swimming – which is not the case with wallets and mobile phones. Near drownings are one of the most common incidents that may lead to a patient being brought to us unconscious. Motorbike accidents, where the driver was wearing only a pair of swimming shorts with no wallet or mobile phone would be another example of such a situation.”

Mr Cawood was introduced to IDTracker earlier this month, but is already aware of its potential benefits in Phuket. He noted that it will help doctors and nurses gather a patient’s medical information, allowing doctors and nurses to give treatment that may otherwise be withheld due to unknown complications. It will also stop them administering commonplace treatment if it is known that the patient is allergic to a certain type of medication.

“The insurance information that we would be able to access would also allow us to confirm insurance coverage for a patient even before they are conscious, so that expense is not an issue and we are able to provide the required care without needing to wait for them to wake up,” Mr Cawood said.

Additionally, at a single press of a button, medical staff can send out an emergency email to predetermined contacts who the patient sets up on the IDTracker website ahead of time.

They key to the product’s success will be increasing the awareness of rescue workers and medical staff about it.

“We imagine that many of the patients who are rescued by foundation ambulances in Phuket may be taken to the public hospitals if they have no form of identity, wallet or so on. In these cases, it would be crucial that the foundation ambulances are aware of this product in order that they recognize the bracelet and know that this person is likely to have made arrangements, such as completing medical information and buying travel insurance,” Mr Cawood said.

Additionally, IDTracker provides piece of mind for loved ones, explained Mr Behan, supplying testimonials to the Phuket Gazette.

“My daughter recently graduated and was going on a surf trip to Indonesia. I was relieved to find ID Tracker, as it gave me some peace of mind that in the event she did get injured, at least we knew hospital staff would be able to find our contact details and we would be notified. Travelling overseas can be dangerous; at least this is an inexpensive tool to help alleviate some of the worry,” wrote Alan Novak, 49, from Moana South Australia.

“As a mother, and a nurse, of an adventurous young adult son, I was on the lookout for something like this… My son and his mates attended schoolies and this year travelled to the Philippines,” wrote Clare Morrison. “I needed something to ensure that I was notified if anything was to happen to him while abroad. I could think of nothing worse than his being injured and my not being able to help him, so I see it as helping to reduce his risk somewhat.”

The bands, which are available on line at idtracker.com.au can be sent anywhere in the world. However, the company envisions that the bands will soon be available at retail outlets, such as travel agent offices. They are already available in Phuket at Raya Divers.

“We are just trying to pair with a reasonably sized company that sees the benefit in offering their customers an important, added safety aid for their travel kit before leaving for overseas,” Mr Behan said.

Healthcare providers and police regularly struggle to identify patients and those involved in fatal incidents on Phuket.

Earlier this month, hospital employees made a desperate call for A-negative blood donations to save an unidentified German national. Police were later able to confirm the man as Bernd Langer, 51.

“This is a real problem – one that can be life or death, and one that we have a solution for,” said Mr Behan.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

 

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