By Pranav Bajaj, Co-Founder, Medulance Healthcare
India is the largest democracy and second most populous country in the world. Surprisingly, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in India are still fragmented and not entirely accessible across the 28 states and 7 union territories. According to findings published by the Indian Ministry of Road Transport & Highways in 2016, 400 deaths take place every day on Indian roads. In addition to this, it is estimated that out of every one million people, 42,800 die every year from sudden cardiac arrest. Moreover, according to the World Health Organization, India also has the highest snakebite mortality in the world with estimates at 30,000 every year.
These figures highlight the need for proper emergency medical services that can be accessed from any location in the country. Quite evidently, there is a dire need to address the situation and undertake corrective measures that can help create the required infrastructure at the earliest. However, there isn’t a centralized body or a single system in place either which could play a role in effectively managing and standardizing EMS in India.
Having said that, Central and State governments in the past have tried to address this issue. The Centralised Accidents and Trauma Services (CATS) set up by the Delhi Government, Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI) and American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) constitute some of the inroads made in the field of EMS. In spite of these, the existing fragmented system falls significantly short of meeting public demand.
Why is technology the solution?
One massively important solution is the adoption and deployment of technology to support enhanced EMS performance across the whole continuum of care. For a rapidly increasing and aging population in the country, technology can go a long way in solving some of the complex and prevalent problems in EMS. The revolution in digital systems in recent years has changed the way information is stored, processed and communicated. Additionally, the emergence of robust wireless broadband networks, deep data analytical and powerful mobile computing capabilities, can play a crucial role in defining how EMS will be conceptualized and delivered to the masses in the future.
These complex and prevalent problems in EMS include time-consuming ePCR reports (electronic Patient Care Reports), handover delays and lack of beds in hospitals while the shortage of on-ground talent has also become a bottleneck in relaying vital patient data and patient flow management.
Technological advancements in the field of EMS that can prove to be a game-changer
1. GPS-enabled ambulances with cameras
This is almost a decade old technology but still far from being implemented in ambulance services in India for real time monitoring of ambulances. GPS enabled ambulances with cameras and portable ECG machines inside can relay critical information to doctors and emergency rooms prior to the patient reaching the hospital. It is stated that each minute of delay in starting emergency treatment reduces survival chances by 7-10%. Hence, another very important feature that digitisation has enabled is that ambulances can be allocated to the patient from the closest possible location making the entire process quicker, traceable and trackable. Further, it helps in sharing Information with all the stakeholders for a comprehensive emergency medical service:
● Faster response and delivery time for the ambulances
● Drivers have information about patient location,condition and contact details
● Paramedic is well informed and prepared about the condition of the patient and prepares accordingly
● Patients and their relatives can check the location of ambulances along with the information of drivers and paramedics
2. Predictive Analytics Algorithm
Predictive analytics algorithms can be used to accelerate and manage patient flows more effectively. The Introduction of such a data-driven solution enables the monitoring of hospital admission and discharges, notifying on-ground paramedics on availability of beds and connecting to EMS systems while Emergency Department (ED) staff, physicians and healthcare organizations can decrease delay rates and improve health outcomes.
Predictive analytics also helps in the effective placement of ambulances in certain locations based on historical data. This minimizes ambulance dispatch and response time and enables hospitals to manage their resources smartly, reduce the wait & admission time, and increase pre-noon discharges.
3. Connected Database Management System for health records
An Integrated and connected system that allows EMS to share historical medical records of the patient with ED can go a long way in saving someone’s life. It would enable the ED staff to make informed decisions and achieve good health outcomes.
Currently, the ambulance and paramedic crew have no direct or easy access to patient records so they essentially have very limited understanding of what a patient tells them about their health condition. In a country like India especially, where paramedic staff training is not standardized, lack of information can further affect the way any diagnosis is done. In some cases where the paramedic staff come in Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulances and are equipped to take action, a lot depends on the patient’s past medical history. A connected database management system will help in the right diagnosis of the patient.
In a country like India, technology can play a massive role in improving the way EMS is delivered to the masses. The sheer volume of emergency cases seen on a daily basis strongly suggests that innovation in this field is the need of the hour. While gradual steps are being taken to overcome the pre-existing hurdles, technology can accelerate the process. It has the power to save innumerable lives and also create a sustainable & effective framework for the future generations.