London: It looks like a credit card and slips into a wallet or purse with ease, but it could mean the difference between life and death in a medical emergency.
The MyCare Card stores personal medical data and plugs into a laptop`s USB port, enabling the data to be accessed in just a few moments. It is the first device of its type to have been trialed in Britain.
This working prototype has been developed by City University London and Coventry University, with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
If the card`s owner is taken ill or involved in an accident, paramedics can simply retrieve the card from his pocket and use the data to gain instant access to the person`s full medical history.
As well as using the data for their on-the-spot decisions, paramedics can phone key information ahead to a hospital if necessary, according to a statement by the City University.
Initial trials have been successful and the development team now hopes to work with organisations in the healthcare sector to undertake a full-scale pilot programme.
If that programme is also completed successfully, the system could be available for patient use within three-to-four years.
"When dealing with a medical emergency, patients may be unconscious or unable to communicate with paramedics for some other reason," says Professor Panicos Kyriacou of City University.
"Our device makes potentially life-saving data easily accessible. For example, it`s vital to know whether a patient is allergic to latex. If they are, use of latex gloves by a paramedic might be fatal," he added.