One of the more frustrating and potentially complex patients that EMS providers and first responders encounter is the “found- down” patient lying on a sidewalk or street. The call frequently comes from a “Cellular Samaritan,” who says, “No, I don’t know whether he’s breathing or has a pulse. I saw him as I was driving/walking by and thought he looked real bad and that somebody should check him out.”
These patients often turn out to be homeless or indigent. Oftentimes, their only form of ID is an old hospital or jail ID band, which can contain a fair amount of useful information, including the basics like the patient’s name, date of birth, the hospital where they received treatment and, frequently, even the treating physician’s name.
If the patient and caregiver are lucky, the ID band will be fresh enough so the information is still legible. All too often, though, the band is so old and faded that it is illegible.
According to San Francisco Fire Department Rescue Paramedic Larry Bradshaw, “Our downtown crews were frequently encountering one, two or more of these patients per shift, and often the only thing remotely resembling identification on their person was a hospital-type ID band on their wrists. If it was legible, great. If not, the best we could do was perform a thorough patient assessment, treat whatever we found, package them and transport them to the closest hospital.”
Bradshaw and his coworkers kept thinking there had to be more than just treating the patient and getting him off the street. “If we just had an inkling what hospital this patient had been to before, we could transport him to a facility that knew him, or at least had access to his medical history and records.”
On one particularly busy swing watch, while he and his partner waited at triage with yet another “found-down” patient, Larry noticed that the faded hospital ID band on the patient’s wrist was the same type as the one the triage nurse was attaching around the wrist of the patient she was currently seeing. “That’s when it hit me: If I could assemble a sample collection of all the area hospitals’ wrist bands, then even if the original information was illegible, we would still be able to figure out where the patient had been seen last and transport him there.”
Toward that end, Larry assembled a display of wrist ID bands from all the area hospitals, as well as an ID band from the city jail. This helpful training tool was assembled in the time it took to gather the bands, at the cost of a piece of cardboard backing and a few thumbtacks.
Larry has a few suggestions for anyone who wants to assemble one for their area. “Every few months, check to make sure your area hospitals or other healthcare facilities have not switched to a new type of ID band. If they have, track down a sample.”
One additional note concerning jail ID bands from Rescue Paramedic Jeany Duncan: “Most of the time when we find an ID band on a patient during our assessment, we cut it off and hand it to our partner or stick it on the clipboard to check it out later. However, if your patient is wearing a jail ID band, try to avoid this. These people aren’t wearing their jail ID bands as some badge of honor or for bragging rights. For many of these folks, this is the only form of official ID they possess. As long as it stays on their wrist, it can’t be lost or misplaced.”