A view from the Center

Deloitte's Life Sciences & Health Care Blog

Drones may be able to cut EMT response time and save cardiac arrest patients

Researchers in Sweden are testing the feasibility of having drones carry automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to patients in cardiac arrest to reduce the time it takes to get the person to an AED. When a person goes into cardiac arrest, he or she needs the first potentially lifesaving shock from an AED as soon as possible: no longer than three minutes is ideal.

During more than 18 test flights in 2016, drones equipped with a global positioning system (GPS), a high-definition camera, and autopilot software delivered AEDs to a rural area where someone had gone into cardiac arrest. The median time from dispatch to drone launch was three seconds (compared to three minutes for the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) to get on the road), and it took a total of five minutes from dispatch for the AED-equipped drone to meet the patient. When compared to historical data of EMS trips, the drone arrived more quickly in all cases, with a median reduction in response time of 16 minutes and 39 seconds. The study shows great potential for use of drones to transport AEDs, though further testing is needed and improvements in technology could further reduce time.

More than 350,000 cardiac arrests happen in the US outside of hospitals every year, according to the American Heart Association — and a person has about a 10 percent chance of surviving. Airports, fitness centers, and large public venues have AEDs on walls so that individuals do not have to rely on EMTs. Drones could greatly increase public access to AEDs.

Analysis: As described in the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions’ paper, Will patients and caregivers embrace technology-enabled health care? Findings from the Deloitte 2016 Survey of US Health Care Consumers, within the next several decades, many researchers hope to introduce drones capable of assisting older individuals with health risks who want to stay in their homes as long as possible. Some potential applications include household cleaning, retrieving medication from another room, and other tasks that could reduce the risk of falls in older adults who live alone. Although drones hold great promise for health care, monitoring, and medical product transport, care applications remain mostly hypothetical. The Deloitte 2016 Survey of US Health Care Consumers assessed consumer interest in using drones in various future scenarios. Forty percent of consumers surveyed were interested in using drones to help with self-care, including medication assistance, for a chronic disease.

This weekly series explores innovative breakthroughs and new technologies that are driving momentum and change in the life sciences and health care industry.

Author bio

Doug leads Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Life Sciences and Health Care practice. With 24 years of experience, he works closely with multiple top health care organizations on major clinical and enterprise transformation efforts and on large-scale technology implementation projects. Doug has extensive experience in comprehensive quality and patient safety transformations, turnaround and performance improvement in academic medical centers as well as organization/workflow redesign and technology enablement. He has served as the lead on a number of enterprise transformation initiatives with some of Deloitte’s most largest and most complex clients.