As drones have become more common, the potential applications have come to include surveillance for military and law enforcement or Amazon delivery. Swedish researchers are now suggesting that drones could help save lives as well.
The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden recently conducted a simulated study to see how drones could be applied to medical emergencies, specifically cardiac arrest. The study found that drones outfitted with defibrillators arrived 16 minutes quicker than emergency services did. This is would save precious time that someone may not have since the defibrillator could be used by a member of the public.
"Cardiac arrest is one of the major killers in the western world. Every minute is crucial; I would say every second is crucial," Jacob Hollenberg told The Guardian. Hollenberg is a director at the Karolinska Institute who ran the drone study. "There's a huge difference in using the defibrillator within the first few minutes. Even if you improve the timing of the ambulances in these type of situations, it's too late - only one in 10 victims survive."
Members of the American Heart Association, like Dr. Michael Kurz, have also expressed an interest in the use of drones in medical field. According to the AHA, more than 350,000 heart attacks occur outside hospitals across the United States every year. Kurz even says that this is the first data he's seen published on the use of drones in treating cardiac arrest.
"This is a really neat, innovative method to combat a problem that we have been struggling with for decades," Kurz said. "It's the same reason we have public access to defibrillation. Airports, casinos, large public venues have AEDs on the wall because presumably, it would take a while for EMS to get there. This is, like, public-access defibrillation on steroids, where we just bring the defibrillator to you."
This is another example of the applications being found for drones beyond recreational use but could prove to be an important one. While emergency services are still very much needed, time is a very important issue as Hollenberg brings up. Shortening response time through drones could be a big first step in treating cardiac arrest and in greater drone use for medical emergencies around the world.
One way it could also be expanded is through providing other medical tools, besides defibrillators, for anyone working in the field. This could include intravenous bags and possibly surgical equipment needed if transporting a patient is not possible at that moment. Regardless, any step in saving lives is a good one.