“She thought I was crazy.” That was the reaction when John Young handed his LifeNet card to a nurse who asked about his medications.
The Richmond insurance and investment services executive explained that she should insert the card into her computer’s USB port and all information about his four prescriptions and their dosages could be viewed on the screen.
“Is this information accurate?” she hesitantly inquired.
Young assured her that it was, “even though I can’t even pronounce some of the medication names.”
Young is one of many individuals from Australia to Arizona who have found the LifeNet card to be a genuine value where medical records and health care are concerned. LifeNet, founded in 2007 by Richmond’s Max Smith and Barb Griec (pronounced Grise), is quickly becoming the thing in an industry designed to keep individuals healthy and alive.
The wallet-size card resembles a credit card with one exception. It has a double-sided connector designed to fit into any computer’s USB port. When inserted, the card’s contents automatically open and display personal medical and health information in a safe, simple and secure fashion.
“The card speaks for you when you can’t,” said Smith, LifeNet’s chief executive officer.
“There are a couple of competitors out there, but LifeNet is unique on two fronts,” Smith said. “First, in addition to personal health records, you have the ability to store life documents or private information – such as funeral instructions, attorneys’ names and others to contact in event of emergencies. Then we have a technical support system that enables you to update information from the convenience of your computer. This allows you always to have accurate and current information.”
And there’s no concern about storage space. The card will hold up to six gigabytes of information, enough to contain digital images such as MRIs, X-rays and even all your family photos.
“We do this with two plans,” Smith explained. “For $69.95, you have the ability to load in all your personal health records. And for $89.95, you can load in all your health records and other private information you want to maintain.”
The life documents section is encrypted and password protected, making it accessible only by the cardholder and any other person provided the password or to whom a $45 duplicate card is given. Even so, it is recommended no information be placed on the card that would aid someone in stealing your identity in the event the card is lost or stolen.
The LifeNet staff suggests placing the card beneath a driver’s license. A sticker is provided for placement on the license’s upper right-hand corner stating that a “Medical ID Card is in the Wallet.” Should the owner become incapacitated, the card – containing the individual’s name and photo – is revealed when the license is removed. The card also notes to insert the metal tab in a computer USB port.
The card was developed with the counsel of medical personnel, emergency management professionals, first responder agencies and attorneys.
Griec, the company president, said she and Max, who are “bonafide senior citizens,” developed the idea about the LifeNet card while vacationing and traveling on the east coast.
“In our conversations with others our age, the discussion invariably turned to ‘What happens if something happens while we’re here? Nobody knows anything about us.’
“We realized that could be us and staring thinking about how to solve the situation.”
Shaping the business plan
Griec, whose background is in banking, and Smith, who spent some 45 years in financial services, “started meeting on Sunday afternoons around the dining table” with an operations and customer service specialist and an Internet technology expert. From those discussions, a business plan was developed and LifeNet began to take shape.
“We knew that we’d have to assemble the best people possible to make this enterprise a success,” Griec said. “Wendell Wilson, who owns a Richmond computer consulting firm, and Kandice Jamison, who’s worked with me for years in customer service banking, were key people for us.”
Max said one of his goals was to make the card information process easy and user friendly.
“Wendell designed the card that way, and we’ve been able to keep things simple. For example, any information entered on the card self-populates to all forms.”
“And Kandice,” Griec added, “who’s our go-to lady, knows how to keep the day-to-day operations moving. She’s always available to answer customers’ questions.”
The company officially incorporated in April 2007. Then Patrick Healy soon was added to the staff for business development and Ted Berish joined as corporate sales manager. Some 15 others are contracted for efforts in such areas as marketing, advertising and additional technical support.
In slightly more than a year, we’ve made a lot of progress,” Griec acknowledged. “We’ve gone from providing cards to individuals and small businesses to government agencies. We even have people buying cards for relatives’ birthday presents.”
Smith said the number of subscribers is private information in accordance with the company’s policy of strict confidentiality. But he and Griec note the card has met with global success. Both are busy with continuing education programs that train people and organizations how on to use the digital storage device.
Internet technology is given credit for the card’s fast acceptance.
“This technology allows us to introduce our card to a global market,” Barb explained, “while continuing to upgrade the card and enhance our product.”
Resource for EMTs
Carl Richards, director of Madison County’s Emergency Management Agency, is among those who early on bought into the value of LifeNet. Richards is purchasing cards for all 11 of his staff members.
“Our people are out in the field responding to some nasty situations, such as hazardous materials spills, search and rescue of missing people, and we’re the first responders to natural disasters such as flooding and tornado situations. These are scenes where our staff can be injured while trying to provide service to the community.
“I wanted to protect them so if they did have a health issue, the critical contact information would be readily available to hospital personnel. The LifeNet card is a definite resource, particularly when people can’t speak for themselves. If someone is unconscious, the card could really make a difference. It could be life saving.”
Richards points out that medical bracelets have been worn for years by those who are diabetic, have allergies or who are susceptible to drug interactions or medical procedures.
“However, the LifeNet card goes much further because it provides specifics,” he said. “It provides details, so valuable time is not wasted in determining potential impacts or issues. Also, the card doesn’t require a sophisticated system to boot it up.”
Testimonials for the card have come from a variety of locations.
“As the mother of a child with a drug allergy, it’s comforting to know that when I can’t be with her, LifeNet can speak for me,” Jean Ogle of Knoxville, Tenn., wrote to the company. “Peace of mind is priceless.”
And Larry Daily of Chisman, Ill., noted that “the paramedics needed this type of information when my elderly father fell and was rushed to the hospital. Our whole family now believes in the value the LifeNet card can provide to individuals in emergency situations.”
A Richmond business executive recently noted that Griec and Smith are classic examples that entrepreneurship can be successful at any age.
“They did their homework, were frugal and followed their business plan. That’s a great formula for success.”
State Still Trying to Chart Course,
Pay for e-Health Program
“I’m torn,” Dr. Carol Steltenkamp explains. “The LifeNet card makes sense and some information is better than none, but, for its ultimate value, it’s incumbent on the cardholder to keep it updated and get all the necessary health information in there.”
Steltenkamp, chair of the Kentucky e-Health board, coordinates the activities of the state’s health care infrastructure authority charged with the development of a secure electronic network that will facilitate more accurate, efficient and confidential sharing of health information.
The concept of an electronic health information card has had more success in Europe, “but even there it hasn’t caught on remarkably,” the University of Kentucky College of Medicine faculty member noted. When every medical facility and physician “is electronic,” the ultimate value of such a card will be realized, she emphasized.
The 11-member e-Health initiative board, formed through legislation passed in 2005, is looking at broad rather than specific methods of improving health care information, said Barbara Baker, Legislative Research Commission policy adviser and board staffer.
“The board is reviewing all sorts of ways to implement electronic health care in Kentucky,” she said, “and the LifeNet card is one of many options and solutions. And all of these have merit.”
Steltenkamp, an associate professor of pediatrics who’s also the chief information officer for UK Health Care, says her shoulders sag when asked how far Kentucky is from having a good electronic health care system.
“President Bush wants the nation to have a complete electronic medical record by the year 2010,” she said, “but there’s no way we can meet that deadline. The cost is just too high, and we’ve not found a good way to pay for it.”