Digital Cyclone takes medical advice mobile

Garmin subsidiary and Mayo Clinic are offering software to aid mobile-phone users in medical emergencies.

For a few bucks a month, cell phone subscribers can get emergency medical advice and directions to the nearest hospital with the touch of a button.

Digital Cyclone, a subsidiary of Global Positioning System product maker Garmin, has teamed up with the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research to develop software that provides mobile-phone subscribers with several tools to help them in a medical emergency.

Starting this month, a service called Mayo Clinic InTouch will be available for $2.99 a month on Alltel, Cingular Wireless, Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless networks.

Among its offerings, the new service provides first-aid tips, a symptom checker and health-related video news alerts. The service also provides subscribers with a list of nearby emergency and urgent-care facilities.

Subscribers can enter either their city or ZIP code to search the list of more than 3,800 medical facilities. If they have a GPS-enabled phone, the device can automatically pinpoint the nearest facilities without users having to type in a location.

The pervasive penetration of cell phones today makes them a great public-safety tool , many experts say.

More than 230 million Americans subscribe to cell phone service. And many of these people do not leave home without their phones. As a result, cell phones are often the one device most people have in an emergency . So it should come as little surprise that of the 200 million calls made to 911 operators each year, about a third of them are from mobile phones , according to estimates from the Federal Communications Commission.

Garmin and Mayo Clinic officials see the new software and accompanying service as a way to further extend the usability of cell phones during a medical crisis.

"The Mayo Clinic InTouch program lets cell phone users tap into the expertise of Mayo Clinic at nearly all times--at home, in the office, at a park or in the car," Craig Burfeind, president of Digital Cyclone, said in a statement. "This service provides tremendous peace of mind and possibly life-saving assistance when health concerns arise."


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