“I think I can save more lives with MedicAlert
than I ever can with my scalpel.”
– Dr. Marion Collins, MedicAlert Founder
CELEBRATING MEDICALERT AWARENESS MONTH
August is National MedicAlert Awareness Month. Founded in 1956, MedicAlert Foundation developed the first universal medical ID system. It all started with the simple idea that sharing critical medical information in an emergency could save and protect lives. That idea has since grown into a multinational non-profit organization, helping save over 4 million lives.
The inspiration for MedicAlert
In 1953, a 14-year-old girl cut her finger, deep enough to need stitches. When she arrived at the hospital the attending physician took the normal course of action, administering a shot of tetanus antitoxin.
The girl immediately went into anaphylactic shock and nearly died. Fortunately, she survived the incident, and five days later returned home unharmed.
That girl was Linda Collins, daughter of Dr. Marion and Chrissie Collins of Turlock, CA. Linda’s parents were on vacation abroad when this happened. Dr. Collins – a father and a physician – was especially affected by the incident. You see, he knew of Linda’s life-threatening allergy. But he wasn’t there to tell anyone when Linda couldn’t speak for herself.
After this frightening experience, Dr. Collins knew he needed a way to communicate Linda’s potentially fatal allergy in an emergency. Whenever Linda traveled, he attached a paper bracelet to her wrist listing her allergies, to avoid a recurrence of the incident that almost killed her.
The first MedicAlert ID
As Linda was preparing to go away to college, Dr. and Mrs. Collins realized they needed a more durable solution. Dr. Collins commissioned a jeweler to create a medical identification bracelet for Linda. He designed the front to feature the staff of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine. On either side of the staff, he added the words MEDIC ALERT in bright red to attract attention. On the back, he engraved Linda’s allergies and his phone number.
At college, Linda’s bracelet drew a lot of attention. That’s when a father’s simple idea to protect his daughter from a potentially fatal allergy changed the course of the medical world.
As a physician, Dr. Collins knew that people with chronic medical conditions needed a way to communicate their information in an emergency. He quickly saw that a medical ID could be a lifesaver for people with severe allergies – but also for many other conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, seizure disorders, and dementia.
Realizing the potential of his idea, Dr. Collins said, “I think I can save more lives with MedicAlert than I ever can with my scalpel.”
A new non-profit with a lifesaving mission
Dr. Marion and Chrissie Collins created MedicAlert Foundation in 1956, establishing MedicAlert as the first universal symbol of medical identification. MedicAlert’s mission, then and today, is simple: to save and protect lives by sharing vital medical information in emergencies.
By alerting first responders to a person’s allergies or chronic medical conditions, Dr. Collins knew he could improve their ability to provide fast, accurate care.
The Collins family established MedicAlert Foundation as a non-profit charity, originally running the Foundation from their living room. From our humble beginnings, we’ve become the world’s most recognized medical ID symbol.
It was always important to the Collins family that MedicAlert be a non-profit, in order to stay focused on the mission. From the start, Dr. Collins declared, “We’re not here to make money. We’re here to save lives.”
The MedicAlert difference
Three things set MedicAlert apart from all other organizations that offer medical IDs.
First, MedicAlert is a non-profit; all revenues go back into delivering services to first responders and people with chronic disease.
Second is MedicAlert’s member health profile. This was part of Dr. Collins’ original idea for the foundation. He knew that the ID itself was important, but it couldn’t always tell the whole story of the patient’s health history.
He designed a system where MedicAlert stored data on each person wearing a MedicAlert ID. Beyond the vital information on their ID, the MedicAlert health profile stores all medical conditions, allergies, medications, implanted medical devices, past surgeries, and more.
A phone number is printed on all IDs for first responders to access this information in an emergency.
In the beginning, these records were hand-written in thick log books, and the phones were answered by the Collins family in their living room. The health profiles were eventually digitized during the 70s. Today, MedicAlert stores member health profiles on state-of-the-art HIPAA-compliant servers, and users can update their profile online at any time.
Third, MedicAlert’s 24/7 emergency response team is always on call for first responders. In an emergency, first responders call MedicAlert’s toll free number. Our emergency specialists relay all the important information about the MedicAlert member in their care. Emergency medical personnel can also scan the patient’s QR code for immediate access to their health details. By providing detailed information beyond what’s engraved on the ID, MedicAlert helps improve emergency outcomes for first responders and our members.
MedicAlert Awareness Month
A national movement to promote MedicAlert Awareness began in 1978. President Jimmy Carter honored MedicAlert Foundation for our contributions to public health by declaring the first National MedicAlert Week.
In 1996, in recognition of the Foundation’s 40th anniversary, California Governor Pete Wilson – along with Governors from 24 other states – proclaimed August as National MedicAlert Awareness Month.
This honor acknowledges MedicAlert Foundation’s innovation and dedication to protecting and saving lives, for MedicAlert’s service providing help for people with unseen or special medical needs, and the importance of medical identification.
Through the years, MedicAlert has been recognized by many different organizations for our trail-blazing contributions to public health. Here are some highlights:
American Hospital Association
MedicAlert Foundation was endorsed by the American Hospital Association (AHA). This was the first endorsement in the history of the AHA and was a milestone for MedicAlert.
Smithsonian Museum of American History
In recognition of the impact MedicAlert has had on public health, the original MedicAlert bracelet is housed in the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
American Medical Association Citation
Co-founder Chrissie Collins received the American Medical Association’s Citation for Distinguished Service and contributions to public health. It was the highest honor ever awarded by the AMA to a non-physician.
Wandering is a critical safety concern for people living with Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association chose MedicAlert to jointly develop services to help ensure that people with dementia who have wandered have a safe return home. Today, MedicAlert’s Safe and Found program is used by families across the country to protect their loved one in a wandering incident.
You can see a full timeline of MedicAlert’s evolution here.
MedicAlert fun facts
Some very famous faces have voiced their support of MedicAlert through the years, especially in the 70s and 80s. Actors, actresses, professional athletes, and performers have publicly supported MedicAlert, endorsing us in public service announcements that appeared on national television and in print publications.
A partial list includes Cher, James Earl Jones, John Ritter, Wayne Gretsky, Chris Evert, David Cassidy, Ed Asner and Tony Randall. And the millionth MedicAlert bracelet ever produced went to none other than comedy legend Carol Burnett!
MedicAlert Foundation is proud that in our 67+ years of service, we’ve helped save over 4 million lives.
Now, more than ever, we’re continuing to be a leader in public health. We’ve developed QR code enabled products to make it easier than ever for first responders to get the health information they need to deliver optimal care.
We’re partnering with community organizations to offer MedicAlert protection to people living with life-threatening illness. And we’re collaborating with other non-profits to pilot programs to improve quality of life for people living with chronic disease.
How you can participate in MedicAlert Awareness Month
At MedicAlert Foundation, our goal is to extend the protection of MedicAlert to everyone who needs it. There are several ways you can support MedicAlert during MedicAlert Awareness Month.
- Tell a friend or loved one about MedicAlert. It could save their life one day! Learn about the medical conditions where MedicAlert can make a difference for your loved one’s safety and peace of mind.
- Meet our members and see how their lives have been impacted by MedicAlert.
- Make a gift to MedicAlert Foundation. As a registered 501(c)(3) charity, we rely on donations to deliver our 24/7 lifesaving services and provide sponsored services to people who need the protection of MedicAlert but are facing financial hardship. Better yet, become a recurring donor to support our work year-round.
- Consider planned giving. The Collins family left an amazing legacy when they created MedicAlert. You can leave a legacy of your own with a planned gift to MedicAlert.
- Share your story! We love hearing from our members how MedicAlert has made a difference in your life. If you’re looking for inspiration, meet some of our members and see what MedicAlert means to them.
- Join our community on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn. It’s where we share updates about new products and partnerships, as well as special member sales. Like and share our posts to help spread the word!