i0S 8’s new health app is one of its best features

We’re all addicted to our cell phones for the convenience factor, the ability to reach out and call/text/email friends and family whenever and wherever we (and they) happen to be at any given moment. But we carry cell phones for the safety and security they provide, too. We’re just not as vulnerable out in the world when anyone we could possibly need is only the press of a button away in case of emergency.

i0s 8

The new operating system allows users to add emergency contacts and other important medical information. From Matthew Pearce.

But what if that emergency happens to render you unconscious? And what if someone else has to take control of your phone to dial your emergency contacts, plus figure out who you are and what you might need?

If your phone locks out users who don’t possess your password (or fingerprints), that could be an additional problem compounding an already urgent situation. Thankfully, it’s a problem Apple anticipated and has solved with a new Health app on its iOS 8 phone. The app includes a feature that actually allows people to get into the phone, no password or hacking talents required.

One minor catch is that you have to set it up that way, so the word “Emergency” is displayed whether the phone is locked or unlocked. That way, if you need help, someone could press the word and access 911 as well as your emergency contacts—even when the phone is locked.

The other catch is that in order to allow access to your emergency contacts, this feature lets people into your Medical ID. And you could have a lot more information there than just the phone numbers of your nearest and dearest. Here’s where you also list your allergies. Your medical conditions. The medications you’re currently on. Sure, you want to make sure the information gets to emergency responders, so you can get the best care possible. But it’s disconcerting to think that locking your phone no longer secures these personal details about your health. While it’s scary to contemplate a situation that could render you unconscious and alone, it’s also a bit frightening to imagine coworkers, acquaintances, and complete strangers poking around in your previously private medical records.

The author of this Forbes article urges readers to fill out the Medical ID and fast. After all, you do have to sacrifice some privacy in the name of what could be a life or death situation. And he has some practical advice for handling the privacy vs. safety matter. Get a medical professional’s opinion on what to include.

You don’t have to put everything in your Medical ID.


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