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Tomorrow’s ambulance – Technology: ally or enemy?

Technology is changing the world at a breakneck speed. In this 'global village', where everything is intertwined and everyone can interact, challenges are increasing in different fields of society. The public safety sector is no exception. What trends and opportunities are beginning to emerge? What are the challenges and threats that arise?

This article is an analysis of how, in an increasingly populated world, globalisation and technology disruption are impacting the emergency sector. We will explore how fast-changing technology will change the future of public safety organisations and their professionals with a focus on the role of EENA within the European ambulance services.

One of the most important areas for our organisation has been exploring how technology can work alongside emergency services professionals in order to improve emergency response and save more lives. Practical examples of state-of-the-art technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), drones, and telemedicine are taking their first steps in healthcare.

Although the road is still long, this paradigm shift could be decisive for patients’ lives. We are starting to think about prevention first and then treatment.

As you will see in this article, one thing is for sure: tech is ushering in a new era of emergency services.

Every day, thousands of ambulances are dispatched across Europe. A study carried out at the European level suggests that half of the cases involving ambulance call outs could be treated on the spot, thus avoiding hospital care. That’s why effectiveness of emergency response is crucial.

Many factors contribute to effective emergency response, but time is for sure a determining criterion. Everything revolves around it: the time to classify a call, the time to determine the caller’s location, the time to dispatch resources and the time taken to reach the location. These are just a few examples of the importance of the clock.

To this end, data is becoming more and more important for emergency services. At EENA, we work with different projects to explore and evaluate the importance and utilisation of data, always keeping an eye on the future.

When talking about data, accurate caller location is one of the most significant pieces of information an emergency call-taker can receive. This information can also improve the work of ambulance services, especially when choosing which route is the quickest to get to an incident. Advanced Mobile Location (AML) is a lifesaving tech and for the past years EENA has had a proactive partnership with Apple and Google to push AML adoption worldwide.

Along the same lines, we also partnered with Waze to evaluate the impact of traffic data in emergency control rooms. One of the purposes of the project was to allow emergency vehicles to use data from Waze to send alerts or to monitor real-time traffic conditions that could help to reduce response time.

5G and the dissemination of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are starting to make the emergency services world more connected and improve data analysis. In 2018, EENA & Corti partnered to use AI to detect out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in emergency response centres in France and Italy. A recent study demonstrated that indeed machine learning can serve as a valuable tool working alongside emergency dispatchers.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is continuing to change the panoramic of the public safety sector. The evolution of wearables and connected vehicles can also be a great help by providing patient insights and allowing remote diagnoses by relaying real-time information to emergency services.

In the UK, 5G connected ambulances are starting to be a reality to better both hospital and ambulance services.

Biometric data can also be key to ambulance professionals. Sensors can monitor health status for at home patients or, for example, imaging machines can provide more detailed information to ambulance professionals on site or en route to the hospital. A good example of the use of this type of data are the trials conducted by the London Ambulance Service using real-time information on patients with biometric fingerprint recognition.

Keeping up with all these innovations can feel daunting for some organisations and many are not able to make use of this data right now.

That’s why we launched the Next Generation 112 (NG112) project, a pan-European technical architecture, that provides the backbone for emergency services to be able to exploit the benefits of new technologies. By embracing NG112, emergency services will avoid becoming technologically segregated and public safety organisations will be ready for emerging technologies that could benefit their response.

In a constantly changing world, predicting the future is almost an impossible mission.

However, considering the natural evolution in the sector, one thing is guaranteed: ambulances in the future will be smarter and more connected.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of EENA. Articles do not represent an endorsement by EENA of any organisation.

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