Are drone-delivered AEDs the future of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival?

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Are drone-delivered AEDs the future of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival?

February 21, 2020
Emergency Medicine
From the January/February issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Upon further research, three studies were found to have conducted the most extensive analysis on how influential AED drones could be in increasing survival rates. One study conducted in Sweden found that AED-equipped drones were predicted to arrive before EMS responders 93 percent of the time in rural OHCA cases; which saved an average of 19 minutes in travel time. Another study in Salt Lake City, Utah found using pre-existing EMS infrastructure in addition to establishment of new drone launch sites provided 90.3 percent coverage of the intended area within a 1-minute time frame. Finally, a study in Toronto assessed a region-specific network, which revealed that AED-equipped drones arrived before emergency responders in 94.6 percent of cases for the three-minute response reduction goal.

All of these studies theoretically concluded that a drone network equipped with AEDs has great potential to speed up arrival time to an OHCA. This preliminary research illustrates that drones can help save cardiac arrest patients in not only rural settings, but also in high building locations, mountainous areas, or other settings lacking rapid AED access.

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Drones can provide 24/7 AED availability to both public and private locations and provide life-saving support to the bystander and the OHCA victim. Drones can be equipped with video, voice, and speaker capabilities the dispatcher can use to help guide the bystander through pre-hospital care including high-quality CPR before EMS arrival. The dispatcher can also assess situational safety for both the patient and bystander simultaneously to prevent further adverse events for all parties.

Because the studies used mathematical models to simulate drone deliveries, they did not account for possible adverse weather conditions, operational error, or technical malfunctions of the AED devices, which are all very realistic limitations to drone deliveries of any kind. Studies that control for the aforementioned factors should be performed in the future to properly assess the efficacy of drone-delivered AEDs on OHCA mortality rate specifically.

The likelihood of a layperson to use an AED is yet another challenge to face. Though AEDs provide clear instructions, many people are either unfamiliar with an AED and its functions or are uncomfortable utilizing it when needed. However, delivery of AEDs to bystanders gives them a chance at administering a shock to a cardiac arrest patient as opposed to not having AED access at all.

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