Guest: Heidi Jones
Presenter: Wayne Bucklar
Guest Bio: Heidi Jones is the CEO, Australia Medicalert Foundation since November 2014. Her prior worked includes roles in the commercial construction industry in project management for 10 years, and health services within different departments of IMVS Institute of Medical & Veterinary Science SA and also Women’s & Children’s Hospital SA (both now part of SA Health). She worked as a Lead Consultant at Hender Consulting Jan 2005 – October 2014, Director Corporate Services at SCOSA (Spastic Centre of South Australia) January 2001 – December 2004, General Manager at Adelaide Eye & Laser Centre August 1996 – October 2000 and CEO at Adelaide North East Division of General Practice 1993 – 1996.
Segment overview: In today’s Health Supplier Segment, learn more about benefits of becoming a member of the Australia Medicalert Foundation as we are joined by their CEO Heidi Jones. They are a membership-based organisation that has been helping protect Australians for over 40 years. They offer Australian made products such as their medical ID that will speak for you when you cannot speak for yourself in times of an emergency. Their MedicAlert emblem is recognized in many countries to give you peace of mind when you travel. Purchasing your first medical ID bracelet or necklace makes you their member through online registration process.
Health Professional Radio
Wayne Bucklar: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio. My name is Wayne Bucklar and joining me today is the chief executive officer of Australia MedicAlert Foundation Heidi Jones. Heidi welcome to Health Professional Radio.
Heidi Jones: Thank you very much Wayne.
Wayne: Now I know what MedicAlert is because it’s been one of my interests for a long time. But do tell us what it is that MedicAlert does and what geographic footprint do you service?
H: Okay, well MedicAlert Foundation is a very, very interesting organization. We are part of the MedicAlert International fraternity, so that’s say “not for profit global affiliated organization” which operates internationally and has been operating for up to 70 years. And here within Australia we’ve been providing this service for over 44 years. And as an organization we are a service provider and with national membership so we are a national based organization and we operate in the emergency services discipline I guess of the health sector.
W: Now what would people know you best for? Tell us about your signature items that people can get in their head what we’re talking about.
H: Okay. What we do as a member based organization is that we protect the community and our member through our service provision. Were an enabling organization to first respond as an emergency and health personnel and we assist with their clinical assessment and decision making of patients at times of the emergency when they can’t speak for themselves. So the MedicAlert organization is a service provider where we hold the personal medical information of our members on a 24/7 secured database which is accessible to the health sector and emergency services personnel. And part of that membership with us is that our members receive a piece of medical identification jewelry which is customized and has their personal medical condition engraved onto it together with the 24/7 emergency hotline. And the medical identification jewelry access that visible alert protecting the individual at that time of emergency.
W: And I guess in my mind that’s the kind of the obvious signature item for you, is that I’ve seen them as bracelets, I guess they come as other things I don’t know – the little silver bracelet token.
H: That’s correct. Our medical identification jewelry is or the emblem is a trademarked and our brand is trademarked. So it’s recognized worldwide and emergency personnel and health practitioners are trained to recognize it. So our jewelry is normally worn on the wrist or on the neck. So a piece of a necklace or a bracelet that’s around the pulse point. And medical professionals are trained to look for it and the reverse side of the emblem has the medical condition engraved on it together with the 24/7 hotline and specific information related to that person.
W: Now this is lifesaving in some circumstances I guess.
H: Most definitely. However, it’s also used in non-life saving situations as well. So I mean it can be that someone presents at a pharmacist and they are wanting to show a script and they can’t remember certain medications that they’re on so the pharmacist can actually ring our 24/7 hotline and validate information as well. And generally it is used in that emergency situation so if someone can’t speak for themselves they’re unconscious and the emblem does speak for them. But it’s also used in a range of other means, I guess. We have a lot of clientele or members that may have dementia and they may have wandered. And we’ve also had it used in cases where autistic children have also wandered. So it’s the only form of identification that can be used to return them home to their loved ones.
W: And that 40 years or 44 years you’ve been doing it in Australia has left it as a brand that is highly respected and highly trusted in Australia.
H: Within Australia, worldwide yes and within Australia as well. So we have over 300 thousand members Australia wide and our footprint and is national as I said so our greatest spread that we have membership wide is across South Australia and Northern Territory followed by WA, New South Wales Queensland, Victoria and then the ACT in Tasmania. And our membership range is certainly around that 45 plus and that’s the line to the aging demographic that we have in Australia as well. But we’re also doing a lot of work to make sure that we are valid and our service offerings are attractive also to the younger demographics as well. So we are certainly seeing an increase in member profile for school aged members as children and have acute allergies and mediation requirements as well.
W: Now I’m in conversation today with Heidi Jones, the chief executive officer of Australian MedicAlert Foundation. And Heidi is in Adelaide in Australia, my name is Wayne Bucklar and you’re listening to Health Professional Radio. Heidi, do people need to be referred to you to get the jewelry or is it something that they can do themselves?
H: No, they don’t have to be referred to us. But I must say that the majority of our members all come to us through the health sector. So through GP’s, allied health professionals, specialists, pharmacy and also emergency and service personnel.
W: And so is talking to your GP the best place to start then?
H: We really do like that, mainly because our service offering and our uniqueness and our value is the fact that the medical information that we hold on behalf of our members, it is validated by a practitioner. So their referring practitioner and also then we also have a GP on staff that validates the information that we hold. So people can join us and through our online portal. However we normally do validate any information that they provide us and back to their referring practitioner. And that’s where as I mention we get most of our referrals from the health sector.
W: So Heidi having mentioned your online portal, how do people get to that? What’s the address for it?
H: There are two ways that they can join up with us. One is directly on our website so that’s online www.medicalert.org.au and follow the prompts to join. Otherwise if they have a membership application form that they may receive directly from their practitioner or through our membership brochures they can email that to us via email@example.com. There’s also other ways that they can contact us for membership, we have a customer contact center and we have free call numbers and free fax and free post so they can send details to us or ring us and we can join them up online and immediately on the phone.
W: So lots of ways to get in touch, but the easy one to remember www.medicalert.org.au. Now Heidi most of our listeners are clinicians of one kind or another, is there a take away message for them today? Is there something that you’d like them to get as a result of having heard you speak today?
H: I would like them to realize just the vast array of why our service is of value, where we can assist and protect their patients. So why become a member of MedicAlert and why refer your clientele to us? And MedicAlert speaks for your patient’s medical conditions, whatever allergies they have to drugs or chemicals or food, the environment. If we speak for their medication that they they’re taking, the implants, and the transplant, the medical devices that they may have in them. At the communication impairment we also hold advance care directive in treatment plans, critical information that’s needed for emergency therapy, important information for other diagnostic procedures such as MRI’s and things like that and also life threatening reactions to anesthetic. So the scope of why we are here and how we assist is just endless.
W: Yes, I can see.
H: The other take home I think is also the fact that our database is secure. It is accessible to health practitioners and members can also update their information once they received additional treatment plans and medications from their practitioner also.
W: Now Heidi in every industry there are misconceptions. Is there a misconception about your industry that amongst your customers and clients and patients that drive you nuts and keep you awake at night?
H: That’s an interesting question. I think with the array of competitors that have then entered this field in recent years and they are retail based, product based organizations that don’t offer a 24/7 service. I think there is a misconception that some of those organizations protect patients at time of need. From the research that we’ve conducted very recently and with the continued referrals that we receive from the health sector in general, I just think it’s important that the practitioners and the administrators realize that we are the only one that have that 24/7 hotline and that’s the critical thing. Some emergency personnel won’t even look at the identification jewelry that maybe sold by other organizations, the plastic band and things like that because it’s just too close to a course related band. And it doesn’t have that recognize MedicAlert emblem, it’s not us – so they don’t use it. So our brand and our service is absolutely trusted by the health sector. I guess that’s the take home that I would like to leave.
W: Well let’s see if we can straighten that a little bit of that misconception today. Heidi Jones, chief executive officer with Australia MedicAlert Foundation, thank you for your time. I do appreciate your having a chat with us today and your passion is evident when you speak so I’m sure that our listeners will be paying lots of attention because when we hear you talk about MedicAlert, it’s clearly something you’re passionate about.
H: Thank you very much.
W: My pleasure. Now if you just missed my conversation with Heidi, the good news is we have a transcript on our website that’s at www.hpr.fm. And that transcript also includes the URL for MedicAlert at medicalert.org.au. You can also listen to an archive recording of this interview, so the sound archive is available both on YouTube and on SoundCloud. My name is Wayne Bucklar and you’re listening to Health Professional Radio.