USB device provides access to potentially life-saving data

A working prototype of a credit-card-style device that can store personal medical data has been developed by researchers at City University London and Coventry University, with funding from the EPSRC.

The so-called MyCare Card can plug into a laptop’s USB port, enabling the medical data on it to be accessed in just a few moments.

If a card’s owner is taken ill or is involved in an accident, paramedics can retrieve the card from his or her pocket or handbag and use the data to gain instant access to a full medical history. As well as using the data to inform their on-the-spot decisions, paramedics can phone key information ahead to a hospital if necessary.

‘When dealing with a medical emergency, patients may be unconscious or unable to communicate with paramedics for some other reason,’ said Prof 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, the use of latex gloves by a paramedic might be fatal.’

Although patient-held electronic health record cards have been trialled in some parts of the world, the MyCare Card is claimed to have a number of unique features.

The software underlying the system has been written in the Python programming language, so it can be ported easily between different computers and computer operating systems. The software is also modular, which means it is simple to add new features and database record types. Finally, the MyCare system has been developed on an open-source basis, enabling a wide range of people to be involved in reviewing and contributing to the development process.

Initial trials of the card have already proved 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 around three to four years.

The code underpinning the software is available from