What Is a Medical ID? And Why You Need One

In simple terms, a medical ID provides emergency healthcare workers with critical information about you, should you become unconscious or otherwise incapacitated. The information – which is inscribed on jewelry (medical ID bracelets) or Apple Watch & FitBit Sleeves) – includes your medical conditions, drug prescriptions, emergency contacts, as well as any general concerns you might have about your health.

Medical ID jewelry has actually been around since 1953. And most emergency responders are trained to look for such a necklace or bracelet when triaging a patient. Today’s advanced medical IDs use technology to transmit your data to healthcare workers. For example, LIFEID uses a QR code that can be scanned by any medical technician during emergencies, providing life-saving information on the spot. When the code is scanned, the tag also alerts your emergency contacts immediately.  

What Information Should Be Included on a Medical ID?

Given that space on traditional medical alert jewelry is limited and emergency personnel need to be able to see the information clearly, you will need to prioritize some details over others unless you are using LIFEID Medical IDs.

With traditional medical IDs you are limited to a 75-character space for information.  With LIFEID, you have a 1,000-character space to provide as much detail as you choose.   

Recommended Medical ID Information

Medical conditions: Include any chronic medical conditions – in particular, be sure to list any conditions that may render you or your loved one unable to communicate with emergency staff (e.g., seizure disorder) and/or could be fatal. Some typical medical conditions that are entered into medical IDs include:

  • Asthma
  • Cardiovascular / Heart disease
  • Anemia
  • Allergies
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Kidney failure
  • Alzheimer’s disease and / or any memory impairment
  • Emphysema
  • Schizophrenia
  • Autism
  • Hypertension
  • Previous strokes
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Other rare diseases

Medications: If you are taking a blood-thinning medication, we suggest listing it at the top so it’s clearly visible for technicians who scan your medical ID jewelry. This alerts emergency personnel that you could be bleeding internally if you’ve been injured. Similarly, if you have a severe allergy to a medication, list it so that it is not administered in an emergency situation.

  • Medical devices: For example, if you have a pacemaker.
  • Blood type: In some circumstances (i.e., you have a blood disorder), listing your blood type may also be advisable.
  • If you have transplanted or missing organs: You may be taking immunosuppressant medications, which can make you especially susceptible to infection.
  • Communication/cooperation challenges: If you or your loved one has schizophrenia or autism – or limitations such as being non-verbal or deaf – you may want to list those conditions so that a medical technician is aware when they scan the code.
  • Instructions: Make sure to include instructions such as “call 911” or list the phone number of your emergency contact. This may be useful for bystanders as well.

Update Information on Your Medical ID Regularly

If you purchase a static Medical ID: Because medical conditions can change or evolve, we suggest replacing a static medical alert ID or jewelry with a more dynamic one, where you can update the information as you go. LIFEID medical IDs are designed as dynamic.  

If you purchase a LIFEID digital Medical ID:  You can update your medical information, emergency contact and other information as needed and it will automatically update your information on your bracelet or Apple Watch/FitBit sleeve. 

What Is the Star of Life on a Medical ID?

Medical ID items should, ideally, have the medical emblem known as the Star of Life that depicts the snake & staff symbol. This will alert responders that you are wearing a form of jewelry that should be checked in an emergency. According to recent studies, 95 percent of emergency responders actually look for a medical ID when treating individuals in emergency situations.

The Benefits of Medical ID or Jewelry

There are several benefits to wearing medical ID or jewelry. If you’re not sure about whether or not to invest in piece, here are a few reasons to get one:

  1. Quality of Care

You are likely to receive quicker treatment when a first responder gets to the scene.

The information you share on your alert may also help guide personnel toward treatments that are not only effective, but safest for you given your health profile. For example, you won’t be given a medication you are allergic to.

You’re also less likely to be misdiagnosed once you are out of immediate danger and taken to a hospital. Having critical health information at the ready can help rule certain diagnoses in or out.

With most static engraved medical IDs or medical jewelry there is limited space to provide detailed information.  With a LIFEID digital medical ID, you can provide as much or as little medical information as you choose in your profile, and it will always be displayed with the most updated information.

2. Perspective

Information that could help a paramedic better understand why you are exhibiting certain signs can help them determine proper next steps.

For example, you might find yourself waking up after a seizure in the emergency room. This is because seizures have a number of life-threatening causes. But if you have a seizure disorder like epilepsy, you might have a few seizures a week that don’t require emergency measures. Wearing medical ID jewelry is one way to make paramedics aware of this. With this in mind, instead of rushing you to the hospital, they will likely just wait for you to wake up from the seizure and consult you about how to proceed.

On the flip side, a medical ID that says you have a brain tumor could indicate that a seizure is a life-threatening event. In that case, the paramedic will transport you to a hospital without delay

3. Bystander Response

Medical ID jewelry can also be useful for non-medical personnel who may find you in distress.

For example, the National Institute on Aging recommends that people with Alzheimer’s disease wear a piece of identification noting their diagnosis in case they wander and get lost. Note for Alzheimer’s patents and caregivers: LIFEID medical IDs have GPS tracking that alerts emergency contacts via text message with the time and location where the persons medical ID was scanned. 

For children with life-threatening allergies, such medical information may be useful for school staff (or camp staff) who may not be aware ahead of time. And for someone with diabetes who goes into insulin shock, a piece of medical ID jewelry can prompt someone witnessing them to provide orange juice or candy.

Current Lack of National Guidelines for Medical IDs

While many medical authorities, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC) , are in favor of patients wearing medical ID jewelry, there are currently no national guidelines that explicitly support the use of medical jewelry or what it should or shouldn’t contain.

Companies that sell the jewelry make suggestions and consumers are able to put whatever they want on it. In some cases, this might lead to miscommunication.

With LIFEID digital medical IDs, we provide a guide to instruct you what type of information is useful to emergency healthcare personnel. 

High-Tech Options for Medical IDs

Some newer medical ID options solve the problem of limited space by allowing you to keep a record of personal health information on the cloud so that it can be accessed by a QR code, website, or by calling a phone number that gets listed on a necklace or bracelet instead. LIFEID provides QR-coded Medical IDs that connect with your cloud profile and immediately shows the detailed medical information you choose to provide.

On the plus side, this allows you to share more information with your care providers than might fit on a piece of jewelry. It also gives you the freedom to update that information if needed.

However, with most digital medical IDs emergency personnel have to take the extra step of accessing the information, these options can delay their awareness of important details about your health. Only with LIFEID Medical IDs your information immediately shows up when emergency personnel use it. 


We hope this has been helpful to understand a bit more about medical IDs, how they work and why you need one. At LIFEID, our goal is keep you and your loved ones healthy and safe. That’s why we recommend one of our medical ID bracelets, and Apple Watch and FitBit sleeves, which can speak for you in the case of any emergency. With LIFEID you get your own free user dashboard and connect your medical profile to one of our LIFEID products. LIFEIDs let professionals know if you’re at greater risk for particular diseases or conditions, should you be incapacitated or unconscious.