The need for speed
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Maximizing the Golden Hour
The concept of delivering mobile broadband data to public safety has been a hot topic for several years, and efforts to date have received mixed results. Many fire officials staunchly insist they have little use for broadband data connectivity during their missions. Police departments have been much more receptive to broadband and increasingly are adopting such solutions, although many in the industry contend that these data services are more of a convenience that increases efficiency than a necessity.
But broadband potentially is even more important to the EMS community because its mission — saving the lives and well-being of patients — is inherently tied to what the medical community refers to as the “golden hour,” which is the premise that a surgeon needs to treat a patient within 60 minutes after the patient suffers a life-threatening injury, McGinnis said. In such scenarios, every minute counts, and McGinnis believes a combination of the right broadband technologies could save lots of minutes — and, therefore, lives.
For instance, a car crash in a rural area poses a particularly difficult scenario for EMS response today. With typically less traffic in a rural area, national statistics indicate it will take six minutes — longer, in many cases — before the crash is discovered and someone calls 911. At that time, an ambulance is dispatched to the location, often taking as much as 20 minutes to arrive at the scene.
The 911 call often does not adequately prepare an EMS crew for the accident, McGinnis said. Only after arriving on the scene do EMS personnel realize the severity of the crash and its ramifications, in many instances. In some cases, special equipment such as the Jaws of Life is needed to extricate the patient from the vehicle or a medical helicopter is needed for transport. Of course, getting such items to a scene takes time the patient may not have.
“If you're losing 10 minutes discovering that the injury even happened, you're losing another 20 minutes of it while I take my ambulance out to the crash site and then call a helicopter, which takes another 20 minutes to get to the scene,” McGinnis said, “in all likelihood, you're not going to make it back to the surgeon in that golden hour because that helicopter can't get to you in time.”
But it doesn't have to be that way in the future. Cars equipped with OnStar and other crash-notification systems automatically call 911, so there are no delays associated with discovering the crash. In addition, telemetry data from the crashed vehicle can be used to determine the severity of the crash and — eventually — the likelihood that someone has suffered a severe injury and whether special equipment may be needed, McGinnis said.
“We can create a protocol that says, ‘If we are notified that it is likely that a patient is severely injured in a crash, we are going to dispatch the helicopter and extrication before we leave the ambulance base, so that we all arrive at the scene together,’” he said. “Not only have you saved the discovery time, you've saved the response time, which is about half an hour in the golden hour.”