SCDAA, MedicAlert working to improve emergency care

Pilot program designed to help SCD patients receive faster, better care

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by Mary Chapman |

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The Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA) and the MedicAlert Foundation are partnering on a pilot program to help those living with sickle cell disease (SCD) receive faster and better emergency care.

With the aim of improving the safety and well-being of patients during acute pain episodes known as vaso-occlusive crises — the primary reason emergency treatment is sought — the program will provide participants with a MedicAlert digital health profile. The profile will will securely store patients’ health information, treatment plans, medications, physician information, and emergency contacts.

In addition, each participant will receive a personalized Smart Medical ID Card that can, via a QR Code, provide easy access to their health data and physician-directed pain management plan. The card can be shared with healthcare personnel during emergency care.

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The overarching goal of the year-long program, which begins in September during National Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month, is to slash the amount of time it can take for diagnosis and treatment.

Some 250 patients will be recruited for the pilot’s first round, funded through a grant by human resources solutions provider Insperity. If results are positive, additional funding will be sought to expand the program nationally.

“Delayed treatment in a sickle cell crisis can lead to long-term organ damage and other health complications — not to mention the unnecessary pain the person with sickle cell disease must endure,” Regina Hartfield, SCDAA’s president and CEO, said in a press release. “MedicAlert has decades of experience storing critical health information and making it available to emergency personnel. We want to leverage that to improve the experience for people seeking treatment for a sickle cell crisis,” she said.

While more than 100,000 U.S. residents are thought to live with SCD, many patients who seek emergency treatment too often face impediments that can include dealing with care personnel who lack knowledge about the blood disorder and treatment protocols. Particularly during the current U.S. opioid crisis, patients also face stigmas about the potent medications needed during pain periods and are sometimes labeled as “drug seekers” by emergency department staffers who lack disease understanding, according to the SCDAA.

“Since 1956, MedicAlert has been globally trusted by both emergency medical personnel and people living with serious health conditions,” said Karen Cassel, MedicAlert Foundation’s president and CEO. “Through this collaboration, we hope to equip and empower sickle cell patients with tools to help them quickly get the care they need during a pain crisis.”

How to participate

More program details are expected soon. Patients interested in participating in the pilot should contact their local SCDAA chapter or email MedicAlert at [email protected].

“We believe this program has the potential to significantly improve outcomes for people experiencing sickle cell crises,” Hartfield said.

The MedicAlert Foundation provides medical identification and emergency response services to people living with chronic health conditions. The SCDAA advocates for sickle cell patients and families while heightening disease awareness and advancing the search for a cure.