MaryBeth Matzek: Doctor deploys technology to improve runners’ safety

This is an excerpt from a column posted at BizOpinion.

An avid runner as well as an emergency room physician, Mark Westfall thought something was missing when it came to marathons and other extreme athletic events: a safe, secure way to access a runner’s contact information in case of an emergency.

Westfall, who works in the emergency departments at both Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah and ThedaCare Medical Center-New London, decided to come up with his own solution to the problem – developing a QR code that safely encrypts a runner’s contact information – and if the racer chooses — additional medical information. The QR code is then printed on the runner’s bib.

“Having performed CPR on individuals who have collapsed at the end of or during a marathon as well as treating several individuals injured from triathlons, I knew that having immediate access to emergency health information can only benefit any participant,” says Westfall, who in addition to running marathons and participating in triathlons also serves on medical teams for events he’s not involved in.

Westfall came up with the idea after meeting with John Ernst and Scott Francis from Snap Lab Media in Appleton and learning about QR codes. He then worked with the duo and Steve Luebke to bring his idea to reality.

The technology — call SynChart — was utilized during the Cellcom Marathon in Green Bay last spring and the Fox Cities Marathon, which was held in September in Appleton. After seeing success at those races, Westfall is now looking to take his idea to larger races across the country. Westfall says the key to his medical QR code is its three levels of security. Anyone who accesses the information is recorded and once the race is done, the codes are turned off so if someone finds a bib after a race, she can’t pick it up and scan it to get a runner’s information.

Read the full column for more