My iPhone saved my life. Really.

Last night I awoke, to find out to my surprise, I had died. Well, not really — but what a great opening sentence! What did happen was, in a crowded room celebrating the Bar Mitzvah of a close friend's son, I fainted. A minute later there was someone giving me CPR, another oxygen. Some bystanders said I stopped breathing, another said I had no pulse. So technically perhaps I was dead. No matter.

Dead like Mike

In the confusion, someone asked if they had my medical history, medications etc. My amazing wife pulled out my iPhone from my jacket, went to the emergency screen, and pulled up my Medical ID. There it was, any information an EMT or doctor. could want in an emergency setting.

I really was OK, just tired and, and dehydrated, but chatting with the EMT folks on the ambulance ride they thought that was an amazing feature. One said his phone didn't do that. (I'm on my way to the hospital, in an ambulance, and these folks are having a smartphone debate...)

Anyhow, great story right? There's just a little detail I left out. It just so happened that the day before, I had shown my wife how to access my medical information without the need to unlock my phone.

If I hadn't given her that little lesson, the EMTs, assorted doctors (and one guy named Irving Doktor who leaped to the scene) would have had all my medical info, literally at their fingertips, and not even know it was there.

If nobody knows about a feature, does it really exist?

iOS is amazing. But this amazing, potentially lifesaving feature is totally not discoverable. Every person I asked in the last day could not find the hidden information while we played "let's pretend Michael is having a stroke". In short, I'd have been dead long before anyone could figure it out. Not one person thought pressing the emergency button on a dialer screen would bring up a Medical ID. Not one.

As iOS has become more feature laden, it's also become much more complex. While adding functionality and keeping the interface simple, Apple has made it hard for users to discover the wonderful features inside. It's one thing if you don't realize turning your phone landscape in messaging lets you send "ink". It's quite another when a fantastic, literally lifesaving feature is built in, and no one either knows about or even if they knew it existed, they couldn't find it.

I'm not going to tell Apple how to best implement Medical ID. I am going to say in its current form, unless you give friends and, loved ones a course in how to use it, it might as well not exist.

And absent knowledge of those amazing features, the iPhone loses a lot of its potential value.

I’ve covered the personal technology beat for more than two decades at places like Gartner, Jupiter Research and Altimeter Group. I’ve also had the fun of contributing my $.02 on the topic at Computerworld, Engadget, Macworld, SlashGear and now iMore. Most recently I spent a few years at Apple as Sr. Director of Worldwide Product Marketing. On Twitter I’m an unverified @gartenberg. I still own some Apple stock.

14 Comments
  • Great feature. The addition in iOS 10.2 with the 5 presses of the Power/Sleep button is another one.
  • I had no idea that existed. I best be careful when my daughter is messing with my phone now. Also, sadly I think that author's point kind of flew over your head. The feature for medical ID, or the 5-press emergency call, may be great, but since they are so hard to discover they are as good as non-existent in an actual emergency. Currently, accessing the medical ID is terrible...first you have to wake up the phone, then if you have Touch ID set up you have to fail fingerprint authentication, then you have to press on "Emergency", and then you have to press on "Medical ID". The feature is so buried, and so unintuitive, that it makes you think Apple doesn't want you to use it at all.
  • I was wondering what happened to finding the Medical ID so easily. Definitely much more difficult now than it should be. Apple should address this.
  • No, your iPhone didn't save your life. The people who jumped in to help, who administered CPR and rescue breathing, who called 911, saved your life. At this point in time, Medical ID on iPhone is at best a gimmick, and at worst, useless. It's unintuitive, impossible to find if you don't know it, and no one, NO ONE, should be relying on a phone to give out pertinent medical information. Right now, nothing compares to having your ID in your wallet, a medical alert bracelet for serious conditions, and close family members KNOWING your medical history and medications. I understand family can't always be there, but we're treading dangerous territory when we're relying on a cell phone for things like this. I am, though, so glad that you're all right. Get some rest and rehydration!
  • It is not useless but if there is no one knowing your medical info and your emergency contact it is a great feature. Of course it is not life saving, as a phone can't do cpr lol but it is good to have on you. The problem is not that it is useless, and its implementation is as good as it can be i guess (unless you want to put it directly on your lock screen instead of the wallpaper) it is that Apple don't advertise it much!
  • Hello Mr. Dinosaur who hates technological advances. Jesus Christ, you sound like my grandma who won't use online banking because she's scared of the internet. Having all your medical information on your phone is probably the best place to have it, it's something you're always going to have with you and it can store plenty of information without having to carry anything extra. It's certainly not a gimmick as shown in this article
  • There, i fixed your vote :)
  • May be they should do some tv ad or advertising campaign to raise awareness on those features and at least put it on their website
  • 'If you don't know, I'm not going to tell you..." That's what I learned from this journalistic masterpiece. A potentially life-saving feature so secret that the author, boasting of how it saved his life, isn't going to reveal how to set it up.
  • good point :)
  • They should really make this more apparent Sent from the iMore App
  • Omg I didn't know the 5 press of the power button thing. Sent from the iMore App
  • Oh, didn't know that there is feature like that. Your article had me look into my S7 and found that it also has the same feature. Each phone manufacturer should advertise this feature more prominently. It should be a basic feature for all phones. And it should be a basic knowledge for all too.
  • We'll now start seeing all sorts of stories about how an amazing device helped me more.. Personal info to the rescue !!