If you live with an illness or a serious allergy, you know how to manage your condition and any medications that come along with that. But if you end up in an emergency situation, you might not be able to inform someone that you can’t have penicillin, or that your medication could react badly with something else meant to save your life.
A person with a consistent medical problem can get a metal medical ID bracelet to inform emergency responders about their condition, or they can print out a card and put it in their wallet or purse. But another option has arrived in recent years that lets important medical information be available to EMTs and others in intense situations: Your medical information can display on your iPhone as part of the emergency dialer.
Using the Health app, you can set up a medical ID profile that displays on your phone without it needing to be unlocked, letting emergency responders know information quickly, and giving you a better chance of having your life saved.
Of course, this information could also be accessed by anyone who has access to your phone, emergency responder or not, so read on to learn how to set up your iPhone medical ID, when it’s worth keeping such information on your iPhone and when it isn’t.
Why you should — or shouldn’t — have medical information on your iPhone
If you have a medical issue that’s important for emergency responders to know about, whether they be professionals or just people on the scene, it’s probably a good idea to set up a Medical ID on your iPhone.
It’s free to have and use, and it could very well save your life in a worst-case scenario. Conditions you might have where it’s important to inform emergency responders about the situation include allergies (particularly to drugs and medicines), epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, asthma, blood and bleeding disorders, and even celiac disease, in case people try to feed you to help.
Most of these listed conditions are chronic, so it’s necessary to keep people informed pretty much at any time. However, should you develop any conditions like this, or have one for just a period of time, it might be good to have the Medical ID up and running in case of an emergency.
The feature can always be turned off (we’ll get into that later), and it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health. If you aren’t sure if an issue you have would be important to disclose to an emergency responder, talk to your doctor and see what they recommend. If they think it’s a good idea, then you can go ahead and head to the next section to see how to set things up on your iPhone.
The thing to consider about filling out your Medical ID is this information can be made available to anyone who has access to your phone at any time. This can mean not just emergency responders, but also phone thieves.
If you don’t have strong or medication-related allergies, and if you aren’t chronically ill in some way, it might not be worth filling out the Medical ID just to give yourself a bit more privacy in case your phone is taken or misplaced at any point.
Or, you can fill out the ID, but you can set it so that it’s only available when your phone is unlocked. This defeats the purpose of the Medical ID somewhat, but it will help preserve your privacy a little, and emergency responders could still maybe use your Touch ID or Face ID to access the information they need.
Still, even if you’re relatively healthy and something unexpected happens and you want to make sure emergency responders reach out to a particular person, like your spouse, it can be helpful to have the Medical ID filled out.
You could even fill the ID out to help a good Samaritan return your phone to you, in case it’s lost and not stolen. So it’s really up to you, and your concern about the accessibility of private information about you, versus your concern of having information available in case of a medical emergency.
Again, for those with serious health concerns, the Medical ID might be more of a necessity than something to wonder about.
If you decide to utilize it, or you have to, just make sure you do so with open eyes and be certain that you’re comfortable having the information on it be publically available. With that standard, you should be comfortable and considerably safer out in the world in case something terrible occurs.
Setting up your medical information on your iPhone
If you’ve decided you want to have a Medical ID active on your iPhone, the first step to getting it set up is to open the Health app. Next, tap the “Medical ID” tab in the bottom right corner of the app and then the “Create Medical ID” button.
You’ll be taken to a page where you’ll now set up your Medical ID.
You can input as much or as little information as you want, but the basic sections to fill in are your name, birthday, medical conditions, any medical notes (which can be a place to tell a responder something like “Don’t call an ambulance” or “please reach out to this particular contact”), your allergies and reactions (so people can know what might give you hives, and what might just kill you), and your medications.
You can also choose to list your blood type, and if you’re an organ donor (you can sign up as an organ donor through your phone as well).
Medical ID can list your weight and height if you’d like (your Health app may fill in this information for you if you’ve input it elsewhere on the app, or in an app that connects to Health). It can also include a picture of you as a means of identification in case something happens to your face, like swelling or injury, that makes identifying you more difficult.
These might not be entirely necessary to fill out unless you have an allergic reaction that could cause such an issue. It’s up to you and how you feel about that information being more available from your lock screen — if you keep the Emergency Access turned on.
Within the Medical ID creation page, you can make that decision about enabling or disabling your Emergency Access. If you keep the “Show When Locked” switch at the top on, your Medical ID will be accessible when your phone is locked by tapping “Emergency” on the lock screen, then “Medical ID” in the bottom left corner.
If your phone doesn’t show the Medical ID after you’ve set it up, you may need to restart your phone — at that point, it should work.
If you’d like your Medical ID to only be accessible when your phone is unlocked, just tap the “Show When Locked” switch off and that will be how your ID works.
As we said above, this does somewhat negate the purpose of setting up the Medical ID and can impede the help emergency responders can offer you. But it’s an option, and as we said, your fingers and face could be used to help unlock your phone to reach that information if necessary. Just know you’re risking information not being available when you maybe want it to be.
This Medical ID creation page also gives you an option to input Emergency Contacts if you wish. If you ever use Emergency SOS, an iPhone feature that finds and calls the local emergency number for whatever area you’re in and tells that emergency service your location, your Emergency Contacts will be messaged just after your call is completed.
The message will let that person know you’re having an emergency and it will tell them your location just as it does for the emergency services. This location will keep being shared with them for a period of time while your iPhone is in SOS mode, so they can stay on top of the situation that way, too.
Emergency SOS can be reached by holding down the power button on your phone and then swiped on. This is also a place where your Medical ID can be viewed once you have it set up.
For people with certain medical conditions, Emergency Contacts are useful to have, as people familiar with the situation can come and help, or can know which hospital to head to so they can advocate for you and help with paperwork.
That’s why this option is available through the Medical ID creation; it’s part of your iPhone being a tool to help in a variety of medical and emergency situations, one more useful than most.
It’s up to you whether or not you want to use Medical ID on your iPhone. It allows some personal information to be available on even a locked phone, but for people with certain conditions, or in certain situations, it can be absolutely life-saving.
Decide whether or not you use it, or consult with your doctor and loved ones about setting one up using the above steps. At the end of the day, it’s better for emergency responders to have information than not, so why not make things a little easier by filling out your Medical ID? Who knows, it might just be the thing that saves your life!