Chris’s medical alert idea: simple but powerful

Published on: 05 Oct 2014

chris ford

A SMALL device conceived around the kitchen table of a home in Downend is starting to make waves in the medical world, with healthcare professionals saying it has the potential to transform lives.

Tap2Tag is a medical alert wristband which uses the latest technology to give paramedics information about the wearer’s medical condition.

This information could be vital if someone was allergic to a particular type of medication or anaesthetic or if anyone was taking prescribed drugs.

The device is the brainchild of Downend accountant Chris Ford who developed the idea with the help of his wife Sue and sons Sam, 21, and Harry, 19, using external consultants to build upon the technical side.

Tap2Tag uses near field communication (NFC), the same technology used in many smart phones.

If, for example, someone collapses, anyone with a NFC-enabled mobile phone can ‘tap’ into the patient’s device. After a couple of clicks they can access information which could include the wearer’s name, known medical conditions, allergies and medications they require.

Simple instructions could also appear should the wearer wish. For example “Call 999. I have a heart condition. Spray is in my bag. Spray once in my mouth then wait for paramedics.”

Chris, 49, came up with the idea back in December 2012 when his mother was housebound, with carers coming in to visit her four times a day.

“We used to have keep details of her medication up to date on a Word document then print it out and put it in the kitchen just in case the paramedics ever had to be called,” Chris said.

“We thought it would be a really good idea if we could keep all the information in one place and give her something that, wherever she was, the information would always be available. That’s when we came up with the concept that if we could store information on a secure website and attach it to a wristband or card then everywhere she went, someone would always have access to that information in an emergency situation.”

Tap2Tag, which now has premises in Kingswood, took just 16 months from conception to launch.

Already the wristband, which is also available as a key fob and a card, has attracted a great deal of attention.

Chris said: “The reaction has been staggering. We kept it quiet for 16 months and were then given an opportunity to have a stand at the NEC for the Naidex show, a show for people to exhibit their devices to people who have disabilities.

“People looked quizzically at our stall but as soon as we were able to demonstrate what Tap2Tag was, they were blown away.

“The public and the medical profession have been astonished at how easy it is and how quickly someone can get hold of information.”

The charity Epilepsy Action, which campaigns to improve the lives of the estimated 600,000 people with epilepsy, has agreed to sell the devices through its website.

Simon Wigglesworth, deputy chief executive at Epilepsy Action, said: “We know from previous research that many people with epilepsy are worried about having a seizure in public. Devices which give information about a person’s epilepsy and seizure type can be very useful in helping passers-by know what to do if they see someone having a seizure.”

Avon and Somerset’s police and crime commissioner Sue Mountstevens has also shown an interest in the device, saying it could aid the work of police.

Chris said: “She was very interested in it as the police spend a lot of time trying to relocate people with Alzheimer’s and dementia that go wandering off.

“Tap2Tag can send messages to selected emergency contacts of the wearer so they immediately get notified by text or email of who’s accessed the data and when. In the case of someone who has wandered off, the contacts, which could be a carer or local authority, can be notified that the person has been found and who has found them. It’s a way of relocating people back to their homes or care homes.”

As well as speaking to various charities, Chris has been in talks with a hospital trust in Hampshire which is interested in trialling the device. He also has the support of Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore and MEP Ashley Fox and has been asked to talk at the European Commission in Brussels about how this device can help in Europe.

Future plans include using the wristbands to access care plans for pregnant women and pet tags which will enable people to find out the address of the pet’s owner and the name of their vet in case the animal strays or is involved in an accident. The medical profile can also contain details of any treatment, injections or medication the animal has received.

Negotiations with high street stores are taking place and it is hoped the bands will be available to buy countrywide within the next few months.

“The nicest thing about this is the people you talk to,” Chris said.

“A lady at our exhibition stand was actually crying. She was an occupational therapist who works with people with muscular dystrophy. She said ‘We have been asking for this for 10 years and you’ve done it. Thank you, thank you so much!’ You get feedback like that and you think ‘Crumbs, we really have done something which can change people’s lives’.”

To find out more about Tap2Tag visit www.tap2tag.me

chris ford

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