Tuesday, October 24, 2006

ICE on Cellphones: An Acronym for Emergencies

A simple acronym entered into people’s cellphone listings, ICE, can help emergency room doctors who are trying to track down a patient’s family.

It stands for In Case of Emergency, and a report presented at a recent gathering of the American Conference of Emergency Physicians said doctors should encourage their patients to start using it.

“We are always faced with situations where patients come into the emergency room and for one reason or another are not able to communicate with us,” said the author of the report, Dr. Dennis McKenna of the Albany Medical Center.

Traditionally, hospital workers have searched for a wallet and then tried to find relatives through the identification inside — a slow and not always successful method.

But with cellphones so common, Dr. McKenna said, hospitals now often search through cellphone address books for clues about whom to contact. While efforts to teach people to add an emergency contact listing have begun, doctors can do more to popularize the idea, he said.

For the study, researchers surveyed more than 400 emergency room patients and the people accompanying them and asked if they knew about ICE entries and if they would be willing to use them.

Although about a sixth of those surveyed said they had heard of the idea, less than a tenth had the listing on their phones. When hospital staff members offered instructions or help, however, more than half of those who had phones with them agreed to put the listing in.

Source: NYTimes Health

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