AS ARE ALL THINGS IN LIFE, emergency services have natural limitations. EMTs, though trained and equipped as good as modern education and technology allow them to be, are still bound by laws of physical world and constrained by road traffic.
The rules of ‘golden hour’ and ‘platinum ten minutes’, which basically state that survivability decreases considerably as the time passes, pile on more pressure onto the EMTs shoulders. For instance, teams must be able to arrive to the scene of an accident in- or in less than 15 minutes on a call for a heart attack. Respiratory problems will present the EMTs with a slightly wider window of opportunity – 20-25 minutes. A bleeding trauma (naturally, depending on a type and intensity of the bleeding) is a window wider still, and so on. In short, you can imagine the burden of risk and responsibility, under which the EMTs are operating.
These conditions and stipulations of the Emergency Medical Services have been known for a long time. They are stated, scrupulously deciphered and explained in every EMS manual on Earth, yet, the mere magnitude of the issue of the emergency medical response is so grand that even in this day and age the margin for error may only be narrowed, not closed completely. And ‘the narrowing’ is done with the help of technology. Rest assured, there are hosts of modern devices that can buy you some extra time in an emergency and make a huge difference for your welfare.
- UAV to reach the scene of emergency first
Imagine that the emergency care can be taken before the EMTs arrival to the scene. Or better yet, after an expert consultation ‘from above’ the patient receives the first aid and, if necessary, even treatment from the same members of the public who called for help. After a fix-up the patient is capable of getting to a hospital on his or her own, without having to reroute the EMTs. Pretty cool, hah? This can be a blessing for the large, underpopulated areas difficult to reach by a traditional ambulance: rural lands, remote resorts, military outposts etc. In such conditions, the ‘bird view’ perspective can help an EMS unit reach the scene sooner. In addition, the drone can deliver medications, surgical instruments and other means to stabilize the patient to a degree when he or she may deal with the situation without the immediate paramedics’ involvement.
You’ll be happy to know that such device is being developed by the two schools in Mississippi, the William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine and Hinds Community College, and is called HiRO – Health Integrated Rescue Operations. But it’s important to know that their remote controlled drone is more than just a small vehicle for air-dropping stuff. The cherry on top of a pretty extensive list of features is that it provides the EMTs with the two-way conferencing ability with those who take immediate care of the patient at the scene.
- Quick digital triage
Digital tools for triage are already in use during incidents with mass casualties. But for some reason this technology takes its sweet time to migrate from ER into the first responders’ shoulder bags. Especially, given that digital triage is a well known and very effective tool to establish a chain of treatment, it’s vital in informing and preparing the emergency ward personnel beforehand to receive a patient that is critically injured or has a dangerous medical condition.
Well, who says that grassroot movements are only viable in politics? Initially, the medical startup called ‘Twiage’ merely aimed at using smartphones and cellular networks to collect triage data and push it through to ERs across the US. Clever! But over the last two years the service has grown into a very important EMS tool and it is still free for use by the EMTs (hospitals need to buy a subscription, though).
- Portable blood analyzer
We’ve already mentioned the ‘golden ten’ and the ‘platinum fifteen minutes’. There’s no overstating this one: the response interval is of enormous importance for the first responders, there’s very little time for a team of paramedics to accurately assess the situation and stabilize the patient. Hence, one of the most useful tools, which recently made a move from stationary to portable: a handheld blood analyzer.
Actually, there’s the portable blood analyser called HemoPalm being developed by ChroMedX, a small but auspicious startup out of Toronto, Canada. HemoPalm is lighter and smaller than competition while being a much more cost effective solution. But most importantly, it’ll perform CO-oximetry as well as analysis of blood gases and electrolytes via disposable cartridges, and all that without arterial probes: HemoPalm uses pin-prick sampling, which is much simpler to perform at the scene of emergency to potentially diagnose carbon monoxide poisoning, internal bleeding and general organ health in the field.
- Telepresence kit
We’ve already established that the first responders’ objective is stabilizing the patient so that he or she may be transported safely to a hospital for professional treatment. Supposedly, that task does not require of an emergency medical technician the MD-level of knowledge and education. It would be immensely beneficial, though, if a MD would have a chance to supervise the EMTs actions every time they’re answering a call. The solution is Telepresence of a consulting physician at the scene of an emergency. A company out of Lexington, Massachusetts, called swyMed specializes in portable devices providing such function. swyMed DOT Telemedicine backpack is built around a rugged tablet with a Full HD camera, two digital scopes and a pair of cellular modems for redundancies. It’s fully autonomous and lasts for up to 15 hours on single charge.
- Video Laryngoscope
Some tools that originated in the earliest days of the emergency medical care are destined to remain ever present in the first responder’s bag. But who said they can’t evolve? Laryngoscope, while efficient in its simplicity, after 127 years of service is ripe for innovation. The Irish medical technology giant Medtronic has heeded the call with their McGrath™ MAC EMS Video Laryngoscope. As the name suggests, the tool’s developer, Aircraft Medical Ltd, has fitted a compact camera and a small monitor into a casing about the size of a classic laryngoscope. The battery is good for up to 250 minutes, it’s completely waterproof (for cleaning and disinfection) and can survive a fall from 6 feet high. And if your grandpa prefers it the old fashioned way, you may indulge the old timer and switch off the camera.