4 Steps to Prepare for the Future of Emergency Response and Management
Emergency response and management are of great significance for reducing the financial and psychological burdens associated with healthcare delivery. Rapid urbanization, aging infrastructure, scarcity of resources, and population explosion have put a significant strain on the existing emergency response and management system.
From natural disasters to the management of comorbid conditions, such as chronic wounds, the role of emergency medical services and subsequent incorporation of technology are critical. Healthcare technology must be the frontrunner to ensure that the emergency medical services are made easily available, affordable, and sustainable.
What the Future of Emergency Response and Management Looks Like
The role of emergency services is evolving at a rapid rate, fueled by increased demand in services, coupled with limited availability of resources. The Association of Ambulance Chief Executives’ (AACE) vision for 2020 and beyond sets out to reposition the ambulance as a ”mobile healthcare unit,” which will result in increasing demand to deliver treatment and care in the prehospital space.
Transportation of the afflicted patients to the hospital by using emergency medical services and subsequent hospitalization poses a significant burden on the healthcare system. It also increases the risk of the patient contracting infections by secondary pathogens in the hospital environment.
The National Health Service is now seeing the potential of the paramedic in fulfilling roles that traditionally may have been undertaken by healthcare professionals, made possible by the optimization of technology utilization and improvements in connectivity.
Technology will aid in the shift of focus of healthcare. The current practice of patients being transported to the hospital would be replaced by the treatment taking place at home or in community setup with well-equipped satellite health centers.
How can healthcare organizations prepare for the future of emergency response and management?
1. Wearable devices and IoMT for healthcare monitoring
Internet of Things (IoT) has found its wide application in the field of healthcare in the form of Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). An array of interconnected devices that are capable of relaying the relevant medical information to the emergency medical personnel and doctors can come in handy at the time of an acute emergency.
Medical devices equipped with advanced sensors for health monitoring would result in the patient taking charge of their own treatment. For chronic wound management, engineering of flexible biosensors that are capable of monitoring physiological conditions of the wound and relaying the necessary information to the treatment providers is already undergoing laboratory testing. Commercial application of these devices would result in a much-needed technological intervention in the management of chronic wounds.
The healthcare market is ripe for a technological revolution that would transform wound management. Healthcare-based mobile apps are already being introduced in the marketplace. The time is not far when some businesses realize this growing need and utilize app builders or custom software to manage chronic wounds from home via a mobile app.
2. Use of data-driven insights to facilitate healthcare delivery
Emergency management needs to involve all stakeholders, promote coordination between caregivers, and facilitate a seamless sharing of information across the different levels of response management.
Making use of real-time healthcare data to gain insights into specific risks and hazards, and pre-planning the emergency response according to the same, is something that application of big data analytics and machine learning makes possible.
Risk-based planning of emergency response is critical for effective preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery to any situation that necessitates the deployment of emergency services. Data analytics can help streamline the emergency response by assessing and highlighting the risks that are prevalent in certain communities and allowing the EMTs to be better prepared for combating the same.
3. Use of telemedicine as a continuation of EMS
The benefits of telemedicine for an effective delivery of healthcare needs no elaboration. Apart from being a viable alternative to the traditional healthcare delivery system, it is also a popular patient education tool. Remote availability of physicians and connectivity via technology that ensures seamless transfer of patient data would result in faster clinical decision-making while making access to healthcare widely available at lower costs.
The confluence of emergency response with telemedicine has the potential to make crisis management more effective. Emergency medical personnel equipped with portable laboratories for field testing would transform healthcare delivery in the future. Rapid testing equipment would allow EMS professionals to conduct the necessary patient assessments in the field, which would result in streamlining of the care plan.
The increased elderly population and greater incidence of conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, indicate that the trend of development of chronic wounds is bound to increase in the years to come and would result in a significant burden on the existing healthcare system.
Telemedicine-powered EMS can also help in the management of chronic wounds by the emergency personnel, resulting in lower hospitalization instances and less need for the emergency personnel being called upon. In cases where no surgical intervention is necessary, use of telemedicine apps allows medical professionals to deliver quality care even during emergencies.
4. Technology as a communication and collaboration tool
Social media has become every person’s go-to tool in case of an emergency. A huge chunk of the population now relies on the power of various social media tools in times of crisis to contact first responders. The healthcare community needs to come up with an effective strategy to communicate with the affected people during emergencies.
Social media, while a powerful tool, is a limited utility if a natural disaster occurs leading to disruption of power or communication lines. Technology needs to come up with a viable strategy for establishing fail-safe lines of communication that enable emergency responders to connect with patients and result in real-time delivery of healthcare services.
Cloud hosting of healthcare data, while ensuring compliance with data security norms like HIPAA, HITECH, and GDPR regulations, has resulted in improved collaboration among healthcare providers. The individual patient can be reviewed by specialists and given the level of care required without the need of physical correspondence.
The Future of Healthcare
Healthcare industry has been one of the laggards in adapting to the rapidly changing technological scenario but all that is now changing. Technology is finding its application in a myriad of health segments, and the field of emergency response and management is no exception to it.
The potential benefits of leveraging technology in the field of healthcare are immense. It can significantly reduce the long-term costs associated with healthcare delivery while streamlining the access to quality healthcare services.
We are far from realizing the true potential innovations such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented and virtual reality and big data analytics would have on healthcare in the future, but one thing is for sure, healthcare technology is the way forward into the future.