by Kevin Burton
Health care systems worldwide use drone technology to overcome physical and other barriers in an effort to save lives.
The technology was crucial for a Swedish man late last year, as reported by the BBC.
“An autonomous drone has helped to save the life of a 71-year-old man who was suffering a cardiac arrest,” wrote the BBC.
“The drone delivered a defibrillator to a doctor helping the man, who became ill while shoveling snow outside his house in Trollhattan, Sweden. The man, who didn’t wish to be named, told the BBC it was ‘fantastic’ that it arrived so quickly.”
Everdrone, the company behind the drone, says it meant that defibrillation could begin before the arrival of an ambulance. It took just over three minutes from the alarm being raised until the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) was delivered, the BBC reported.
The patient told the BBC he doesn’t remember what happened that day. He was clearing thick snow from his driveway but when the cardiac arrest hit, ‘everything went black,’ he said. His wife later told him how lucky he had been.
“Dr Mustafa Ali, who happened to be driving past at the time, rushed to help and told Everdrone, ‘I was on my way to work at the local hospital when I looked out the car window and saw a man collapsed in his driveway,’” reported the BBC.
“’The man had no pulse, so I started doing CPR while asking another bystander to call 112 (the Swedish emergency number).
Just minutes later, I saw something flying above my head. It was a drone with a defibrillator.’”
Everdrone chief executive Mats Sallstrom believes the technology played a part in a team effort to save the patient’s life.
“It’s a medical doctor doing CPR, it’s the early defibrillation, it’s the treatment in the ambulance on the way to the hospital,” Sallstrom told the BBC. “There’s a chain of events saving the person’s life, and the drone is a very critical part of how that system works.”
“The drone is a partnership between the Karolinska Institutet – Sweden’s largest medical university – together with the national emergency operator SOS Alarm, Region Vastra Gotaland and Everdrone.
In 2020, the group explored the use of drones to deliver defibrillators in Gothenburg and Kungalv in western Sweden,” the BBC reported.
“Over the four-month study, the Karolinska researchers found that drones were dispatched to 12 out of 14 cases of suspected cardiac arrest, and successfully delivered an AED in all but one.
In seven cases the drones arrived before the ambulances.”
In the USA, the first Federal Aviation Administration-approved delivery drone brought medical supplies to a rural Virginia clinic in 2016,” according to www.dovepress.com. “Since then, the use of medical drones has expanded.”
“Medical drones are now used in a wide range of medical and public health situations to supplement ground response teams and manned aircraft, particularly in situations in which responders may be in danger or in which manned air or ground vehicles are costly,” the website writes.
“Hospitals have begun using drones to rapidly and reliably transport laboratory samples, and humanitarian aid organizations are now using drones to cost-effectively bring blood products, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, and even organs to remote, rural areas or areas with poor infrastructure,” according to the website.
Everdrone says the system has gotten a lot faster. The focus now is to work closely with the dispatchers who give instructions to the people on site.
Everdrone is in talks to bring the technology to other countries, including the UK, though the firm won’t say to which ones it has been speaking.
Drones are already in use by some UK emergency services, wrote the BBC. Earlier this year, an 83-year-old man’s family said his life was saved when he was found by a police drone after being missing for 18 hours.
The key to the Swedish system is having an integrated system ready to go, Everdrone says. The drone system is electronically integrated with the emergency dispatch system and can get ready to fly as soon as an emergency call suggesting a cardiac arrest is received, Sallstrom said.
Although the drone is autonomous, there is also a ‘pilot in command’ who oversees the operation for safety reasons and can obtain clearance to take off from air traffic control.
“Roughly 60 seconds from the alarm we can be on our way,” Sallstrom said.
Time is very much of the essence, as the chance of survival decreases by 7 to 10 percent with each minute following collapse, the company says.