In Stockholm, Sweden, a team of researchers have conducted a study concluding that an aerial drone carrying a defibrillator can arrive on a scene faster than an ambulance. The study titled “Time to Delivery of an Automated External Defibrillator Using a Drone for Simulated Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrests vs Emergency Medical Services” was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The Research Letter to the study opens with the following:
Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) affects approximately 55 of 100,000 inhabitants per year in the United States, with low survival (8-10%). Reducing time to defibrillation is the most important factor for increasing survival in OHCA.
Actually I can think of a few other factors that are ALSO important, a few of which may actually be considered MORE important:
- Arrest time to 9-1-1 system activation
- Arrest time to start of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation compressions
- Arrest time to transportation to definitive care (if the patient is viable)
Defibrillation is not the OHCA “magic bullet” contrary to what the study is suggesting and the venerable news media such as the NY Post and CNET are regurgitating. By their own admission it is something that affects less than 1% of the population and while the survival rate of OHCA is indeed low at 8-10% the survival rate of In-hospital-cardiac arrest (IHCA) is marginally better at 17-20% according to The Hospitalist.
Defibrillator delivery alone does not necessarily increase the likelihood of survival. This requires a systematic approach for what is essentially a systematic failure in the body. Bystander CPR training, OHCA identification at the call intake level, dispatching the correct resources, and ensuring there are enough transportation units available for the system are all things that we can improve upon today instead of looking to technology for tomorrow.
I am not against drone technology in the slightest. For that matter, I am a proponent for its use and integration within the emergency medical services, but in a way that makes sense and has the greatest impact. I honestly don’t see defibrillator delivery as being one of those ways.
As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments…