Is the Apple Watch the Future of First Aid?

Is the Apple Watch the Future of First Aid?

As well as being this years must have gift, the Apple Watch has some serious health functionality.

In its current form, the Apple Watch gathers the heart rate and activity of the wearer.

In the future, Apple hopes it will do more.

“Healthcare providers can deliver the best care when they have powerful, intuitive tools. The result is care that becomes more efficient, more personalized, and ultimately more human.” –

Apple and Aetna (an American insurance giant with 23 million customers) held secretive talks back in August 2017 to discuss the future of the Apple Watch, with features such as passive blood glucose monitoring discussed.

In a recent interview with CNBC, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple highlighted the health market as “the biggest one of all,” According to Cook, devices like the Apple Watch and services like Research Kit and the Health app are part of a market that’s “significantly underestimated.”

The hope (or hype) is that wearables and digital technology will transform healthcare by passively monitoring, proactively advising and even contacting a first aider in a medical emergency.

Technology and First Aid Today

Apple’s focus on healthcare has already saved lives.

It used to be the case that we were encouraged to add an “In Case of Emergency” or ICE number to our contact list. This would be the person we would want to be called if we were found unconscious or otherwise incapacitated.

However, as smart phones have taken over, that hold increasingly sensitive data, it is usual for them to be locked, and only accessible with a passcode, fingerprint or similar. So this renders the ICE number in your contact book useless.

Thankfully Apple has realized that the ability to show medical or emergency information on the ‘lock’ screen of a phone or smart watch is vital, and could make a difference to the outcome of an emergency.

On iOS (Apple) devices this is easy to do and the medical ID information is simply found in the Health App.

Set up your Medical ID

  1. Open Health and tap Medical ID > Edit.
  2. Enter your emergency contacts and health information like your birth date, height, and blood type.
  3. Turn on Show When Locked to make your Medical ID available from the Lock screen. In an emergency, this gives people who want to help some important information, like the emergency contacts that you’ve entered.
  4. When you’re finished, tap Done.

Make an emergency call and access Medical ID on iPhone

If an iPhone has a Medical ID, you can view emergency medical information on the device or make an emergency call. To view the Medical ID, open the Health app and tap Medical ID. If the iPhone is locked, follow these steps:

  1. Press the Home button.
  2. Tap Emergency.
  3. On the Emergency call screen, you can make a call or tap Medical ID to see emergency medical information stored on the device.

Make an emergency call and access Medical ID on Apple Watch

  1. Press and hold the side button on your watch until the Emergency SOS slider appears.
  2. Continue to hold down the side button. Wait for a countdown to begin and an alert to sound. You can also drag the Emergency SOS slider.
  3. When the countdown ends, your watch automatically calls emergency services.
  4. Otherwise, slide to access the Medical ID.

Our First Aid Feature Requests

Increasing numbers of people are now wearing smart watches. In a few generations, these devices could include accurate heart rate monitors, temperature sensors and more.

Technology giants should expose this information through the Medical ID functionality:

  • Displaying a recent heart rate graph could show if a casualty’s pulse is increasing over time, a very useful indicator of a vital sign that is notoriously difficult to measure accurately as a lay person
  • Displaying any medical conditions as part of the Medical ID
  • Detecting a lower or stopped pulse rate and automatically displaying the Medical ID
  • Make Medical ID compulsory for all iOS devices
About The Author

Tom Durham

Tom has 10 years of experience as a first aid trainer / assessor and over 20 years experience of outdoor sports instruction and coaching internationally. Prior to becoming a founder of the First Aid Training Co-operative, Tom grew a successful business delivering predominantly outdoor / remote first aid courses across Scotland, using his experience to help others in the outdoor industry improve their skills. Tom is a graduate of the Rural Leadership Programme and also runs a mountain bike trail design consultancy. He continues to work internationally, dividing his time between Scotland and the Italian Alps.