AEDs need to be connected
Our own Scott Casey wrote recently about the future of AEDs (automated external defibrillators). He predicted that patient outcomes could be improved by AEDs that are able to share cardiac arrest data, to emergency first responders and hospital clinicians.
His argument was that by improving timely access to data showing what was happening to the patient during the first few minutes following their cardiac arrest, potential for a positive outcome could be improved.
For this to happen, the AED would need to be wirelessly connected.
This means – for example – being able to upload a ECG graph visualisation to the cloud, that can be accessed by emergency medical services (EMS) on a smartphone during patient diagnosis and treatment.
The technical term for this functionality is IoMT – or, Internet of Medical Things.
What is IoMT?
IoT (Internet of Things) relates to the connectivity of everyday devices, such as home appliances, voice assistants and smart cars. Think Siri and Alexa, or robot vacuum cleaners.
It has been predicted that by 2025, more than 30 billion consumer electronic devices will be connected. This is up from the approximately 13.8 billion devices already connected in 2021.
IoMT refers to healthcare and medical devices and applications.
If you own a smart watch, you’ve seen IoMT in action.
A smart watch is an example of a wearable device that tracks indicators of your health and fitness.
You may use this data to monitor your own activity. Healthcare providers can use this information as well, to gauge general health as well as identify symptoms of conditions requiring treatment.
Benefits of IoMT
Academic and medical studies into the benefits and opportunities presented by IoMT have demonstrated the potential of connecting healthcare devices.
This study from Pakistan’s National University of Sciences and Technology recognises the “vital role” of IoMT in increasing accuracy, reliability and efficiency of medical devices in the healthcare space.
Other studies have delved into specific IoMT-integrated device applications, such as the testing and treatment of infectious diseases, and in orthopaedic treatment for COVID-19 patients.
IoMT is enabling remote patient monitoring, allowing doctors to successfully care for patients remotely – saving time for both patient and clinician, and allowing doctors to respond quickly to emergencies.
This last point is where IoMT has a potential role in responding to out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA).
Moments matter in cardiac arrest, where for every minute without CPR and defibrillation following the event, chances of survival decrease by 7-10 per cent.
The out-of-hospital cardiac arrest Chain of Survival requires a witness to call emergency medical services (EMS), perform CPR and use an AED to commence defibrillation.
As Scott Casey showed us, an IoMT-enabled AED could improve the speed of EMS response – and in so doing, increase chances of survival while also reducing risk of post-morbidities upon recovery.
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IoMT-enabled AEDs will also be able to be remotely monitored, reducing the need for owners to remember to maintain their devices.
This significantly reduces the risk of a nearby AED not being operational when it’s needed, in the moments following a cardiac arrest.
Like all IoT-enabled devices, security is a concern for any equipment that collects, stores and has the ability to share data.
A vital consideration for anyone building an IoMT-enabled device is addressing any vulnerabilities and opportunities for equipment to be hacked. As this study shows, designers cannot afford to ignore those risks.
Protecting data and the access points to that data, and properly managing devices, are key steps in limiting risks associated with IoMT.
Most out-of-hospital cardiac arrest deaths occur because adequate help was not provided in time.
The introduction of IoMT-enabled AEDs, especially if those devices are affordable enough to be purchased for the home, has the potential to reduce that time gap.
It also gives us a chance to remove human error as a factor in AED device and network management.
Over time, IoMT-enabled AEDs will also help clinicians and scientists gather more useable data from out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, to ultimately improve EMS response times and efforts to reduce incidence rates.