The Vacaville Fire Department has developed an emergency medical identification program. This program is called MEDS - Medical Emergency Data System. As responders to a medical emergency, it is important for us to gather critical patient medical data quickly and accurately. In a crisis situation, patients or their family members may be too frightened or overwhelmed by their emergency to remember medical history or prescribed medications. At times, we find patients alone, disoriented, unconscious, or unable to speak. The intent of this program is to provide responders to a medical emergency with this critical information, greatly enhancing the ability of medical personnel to treat patients. Correct assessment and treatment could mean the difference between life and death.
WHO SHOULD PARTICIPATE
- About one out of every four people has a pre-existing medical condition that can complicate emergency treatments.
- One hundred million Americans (36%) of the population suffer from chronic conditions.
- 220,000 Americans make unplanned visits to Emergency Rooms each day.
- Of these patients, 13,000 suffer life-threatening delays in treatment because critical medical history is lacking about such conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and drug allergies.
BENEFITS OF THE PROGRAM
- There is no cost to participants.
- Having an up-to-date record of your critical medical facts readily available to emergency responders can be a lifesaver, especially for anyone who winds up in an ambulance and can’t (for whatever reason) communicate.
- The MEDS sheet is a valuable record that may help reduce the problem of multiple physicians prescribing multiple medications causing adverse reactions.
- The program enables emergency responders to gather critical patient medical information quickly and accurately at the scene of a medical emergency. The information provided will enhance our ability to assess and treat you.
The MEDS kit comes with a data sheet and magnet so you can mount it on your refrigerator where paramedics can easily find it. The kit also includes a sticker for your door or window that alerts the paramedics to your participation in the MEDS program. Click here for an example of the data sheet.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE
You can pick up your FREE MEDS Kit from any one of these locations:
650 Merchant Street - 449-5452
Fire Station #71
111 South Orchard
Fire Station #72
2001 Ulatis Drive
Fire Station #73
650 Eubanks Court
Fire Station #74
1850 Alamo Drive
- It is important for you to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information available as you complete the Medical Data Sheet.
- If you need assistance in filling out the form, please contact us.
- We recommend you check the Medical Data Sheet for accuracy once every six months or when your medical conditions change.
- A good time to check the form is when you change the batteries in your smoke detectors at the changing of the clocks for Daylight Savings Time.
Our goal is to get as many people as possible with medical conditions to participate in this program. Individuals and organizations interested in participating in this program may do so by contacting Fire Administration at City Hall.
The City of Vacaville and the generosity of merchants and residents in our community make funding for this program possible. We thank you for your continued efforts and support. If you wish to contribute to the Vacaville Department MEDS Program, please make your check payable to the Vacaville Fire Department MEDS Program and mail to the address below. You will receive an acknowledgement letter and receipt for your tax files.
Vacaville Fire Department
650 Merchant Street
Vacaville, CA 95688
THE MEDS CHALLENGE
In the course of responding to thousands of medical emergencies every year, Vacaville Fire Department personnel encounter an all too common situation. In the midst of a medical crisis, they are not able to gather critical medical information about a patient quickly and accurately. In such a crisis, patients or their family members may be too frightened or overwhelmed by the emergency to remember pertinent medical history or prescribed medications. In some cases, patients may be disoriented, unconscious, or unable to speak. As a result, accurate assessment and treatment of the medical problem becomes more difficult and appropriate care can be delayed.
This situation is not unique to Vacaville. Across the country, it is estimated that approximately one person out of every four has a pre-existing medical condition that can complicate his or her treatment. 220,000 Americans make unplanned visits to an emergency room every day, and of those, approximately 13,000 suffer life-threatening delays in treatment because critical medical history is lacking. Underlying conditions such as drug allergies, diabetes, or asthma may not be readily ascertained without a good medical history.
Although programs designed to identify medical problems do exist, they are not widely used in Vacaville. When they are utilized, those programs typically provide only limited information. Guided by their Mission Statement — “To reduce the impact of emergencies on people’s lives in a competent and caring way” — the men and women of the Vacaville Fire Department were challenged to develop an innovative, low cost, highly visible medical data system that would gain widespread acceptance and support throughout the community.
Realizing how important it is to obtain accurate medical information, two innovative members of the Fire Department approached Fire Management with an idea they had for addressing the need. The two them (a Firefighter/Paramedic and a Fire Engineer/EMT) were veteran emergency medical responders who had a line-level perspective on what would be the most effective tool for gathering and disseminating critical medical information. They also knew that the Fire Department culture encourages employees to bring innovative ideas forward, especially those ideas that improve customer service and employee effectiveness.
In mid-1998 the first draft of a new program called MEDS — Medical Emergency Data System — was presented to Fire Management. The primary goal of MEDS is to enhance the effectiveness of Vacaville’s Emergency Medical Services by providing critical medical information to responders caring for citizens who are experiencing medical emergencies. The draft program included several objectives:
- The data system needed to be thorough, simple to complete, and easy to update.
- Responders would need to easily recognize that the medical information was available.
- The cost of producing the data collection “kits” would have to be low, and the overall impact to the general fund budget would need to be minimal.
- The kits would have to be distributed conveniently to any citizen requesting one, at no cost.
- The program would encourage partnerships between individual residents, neighborhood groups, business and industry, community service organizations, and the City.
A reasonably priced MEDS kit was developed that includes a Medical Data Sheet, vinyl holder, magnet, and window decal. The data sheet is a simple one-page form that the resident can complete in just a few minutes. It provides space to list medical history, medications and dosages, allergies, emergency contact information, and any other special needs. Once completed, the form is placed into the vinyl holder and placed on the resident’s refrigerator with the magnet. The decal is placed on the front door or nearby window of a residence so that responders know right away to look for MEDS information.
To get the program off the ground, seed money from the Fire Department’s budget was placed into a special account. 500 kits were ordered and in January 1999 MEDS was officially launched. Anticipating high demand, the Fire Department knew it needed to take a measured approach to publicity until sufficient funds were collected to produce a large number of the kits. Initial information about the program was disseminated through group presentations and the local newspapers.
MEDS kits are available throughout the City, making it convenient for a resident to obtain one. A supply of kits are available at each of the City’s four fire stations, in the Fire Administration Office at City Hall, and in other City facilities. In addition, they are distributed at the Senior Center and at several medical offices. Fire Department personnel also distribute them at community events and neighborhood meetings. Every fire engine and ambulance carries a supply for distribution during informal contacts or on non-emergency calls for service. If a resident is not able to pick one up, it is either mailed to them or hand delivered by an on-duty fire crew.
As soon as residents began implementing MEDS in their homes, word traveled quickly. Along with a higher demand for kits, there was a corresponding interest in donating to the MEDS program. Donations from individual citizens began accumulating quickly, allowing the Department to place another order. As more kits were obtained, publicity increased, there were more requests for presentations to community groups, more kits were distributed, and donations increased. For MEDS, success bred success!
Although the MEDS Program was introduced to Vacaville’s citizens just a few years ago, it has become one of the Fire Department’s most successful community outreach programs. Why has it gained such widespread support in such a short time? First, it fills a legitimate gap in the emergency medical care system. Citizens, and in particular seniors, have a greater sense of security and well-being when they have a MEDS kit in their home. For those who use MEDS, it is a free insurance program. They hope they never have to rely on MEDS to help rescuers, but if they do they know that emergency medical personnel will have a better chance of treating them appropriately.
Another reason MEDS is so successful is that it symbolizes the essence of public safety partnership. What started out as a self-funded effort with 500 kits has become a community-wide effort. Over 6,200 kits are in the hands of Vacaville residents. The vast majority of those kits were personally handed to a resident by a City employee. This contact may have occurred at a neighborhood fire station, during a community presentation, at City Hall, or in someone’s home with an engine crew stopping by. It has allowed the Fire Department to interact with the public during non- emergency situations in a very positive way. The program has also encouraged citizens to take an active role in their own well being. This occurs every time someone makes the effort to obtain a kit, fill out the MEDS form, attach it to the refrigerator, and apply the door decal.
The funding of the program through citizen contributions, together with the emergence of major private and corporate sponsors supporting MEDS is key to its success. In addition to funding approved by the City Council, MEDS has received over $7,800 in private funding. A large re-order of kits may be necessary soon, as the Department gets requests for more MEDS kits often.
What has been most exciting about the success of MEDS has been the tangible results in terms of patient care. More and more frequently, emergency responders arrive on the scene of a medical emergency and see the MEDS decal as they enter the home. Typically, one rescuer goes immediately to the patient to start assessment while another goes to the refrigerator to retrieve the MEDS Data Sheet. On several occasions, personnel have encountered patients who cannot provide critical medical information and have used the MEDS data to help guide their treatment.
One early success story involved a 60-year-old woman who suffers from a fairly rare condition called myasthenia gravis. Recognizing that this condition can lead to medical problems including an inability to speak, she took advantage of the MEDS Program. Since she could not drive, firefighters delivered a kit to her home and she completed the Medical Data Sheet. Two days later she experienced severe shortness of breath and called 911. Arriving firefighters could not communicate with her but they knew she had the MEDS kit. They quickly determined what her underlying condition was and started immediate, appropriate treatment. As the Fire Captain who was at that incident later said, “MEDS speaks a whole lot when the patient can’t.”