You Never Know What Will Happen
November 30, 2015
By Bettina Experton, MD, MPH

You never know what can happen. The horrifying events of November 13 in Paris brought that home to me in a very real way. I grew up in France and started my physician training in Paris where I worked in the ER of one of the hospitals that received many of the wounded. As I watched the news reports, I could imagine myself in the situation of the medical professionals called upon to triage and treat scores of the injured at a scale they have never seen before.

As I heard from family and friends in France and around the world, shock became the prevalent theme. Paris is a very iconic city. Even many people who have not lived there have an attachment to it.

Any frightening experience - like this one or a natural disaster – is usually a shock. We never know what emergency situation might arise in our lives. Whether it is a medical emergency, or an unforeseen disaster, the best defense is to be prepared.

As a physician and healthcare IT entrepreneur , I am passionate about ensuring that, both patients and healthcare providers can easily access important, life-saving information, whether during routine medical care, or in an emergency. There has been much talk about Facebook’s Safety Check and the use of other social platforms during the attacks in Paris to let people know that those caught in the crossfire were okay. But what about the people who tried to call for help to let their loved ones know where they were or those who couldn’t speak for themselves? What technologies are available for them?

The same GPS enabled mobile technology that allowed Facebook and Twitter to ease fears and worries around the world can also help us in other ways during an emergency. I am speaking, of course, about the power of the “computers in our pocket” – our smartphones that allow people to check in with loved ones and carry all relevant personal and health information, which can be invaluable in a disaster or medical emergency situation to the medical professionals treating us. Our emergency apps, which have been recognized as disaster preparedness tools by the White House, were developed specifically to “speak for us” in a disaster or emergency situation, and are one easy tool that can help anyone.

We are all becoming more comfortable with tracking our daily physical activity, and even locations and interests on our mobile devices. They already serve as an important identifier and communication hub. It’s time for us to raise awareness of the various tools that can help save our lives in an emergency situation.

Imagine if you or a loved one needs medical attention. Now imagine letting your emergency contacts know where you are if you need help and making your medical conditions, medications, and other important health and family information available to first responders and ER staff right from your phone. Taking the right steps to ensure all medical personnel treating you have all the relevant information can literally save you life.

In an increasingly uncertain world, taking control wherever you can is key. And as part of emergency preparedness initiatives, we call on both local and national governments and public organizations to provide consumers with the knowledge and tools to protect themselves. Awareness is key – let’s all work together to help anyone compile and make available the information they need to share. You just never know what will happen.

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