How IoT is Helping Save Countless Lives

How IoT is Helping Save Countless Lives

Authored by: Ludovico Fassati, Head of IoT, Vodafone Americas.

Sudden cardiac arrest causes about 20 percent of all deaths in Europe. In the United States, it kills about 400,000 people a year — more deaths than from breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer combined.

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart unexpectedly stops beating. Blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. Before SCA, some people have chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, or vomiting. Others simply faint and are rendered unconscious. Unless treated right away with an automated external defibrillator (AED), survival rates are low — just 5-20 percent.

Little is understood about sudden cardiac arrest. As yet, we don’t know of any effective preventative treatments other than a belief that a healthy lifestyle seems to reduce risk. But still: A Japanese study found 2.18 per 100,000 marathon runners have an SCA. With marathon runners being among the fittest athletes available, none of us should consider ourselves without risk of sudden cardiac arrest. Age also isn’t necessarily a factor: The young can have SCA.

The facts for SCA are grim, but this is critical: There is a solution for all of us and a device that can save our lives that costs less than US$500.

An AED in Every Home and Office

The way to improve the mortality rates for SCA is to have working, automated external defibrillators in our homes, offices, and public spaces.

AEDs are lightweight devices that deliver an electric shock through the chest to the heart — and they are remarkably effective. Between January 2005 and March 2017, the Japanese instituted a rapid-response system for marathon runners at organized events. Guided by central dispatch, paramedics on bicycles and on-foot teams were equipped with AEDs to support 1,965,265 runners in 251 road races of a distance of 10.0 to 42.2 kilometers.

The paramedics managed to resuscitate 28 of 30 runners who had a cardiac arrest using AEDs. The two remaining runners who did not survive died because they fell through the cracks — they didn’t have timely access to a defibrillator.

And that’s just it: Proximity to an AED matters — in fact, every second counts. In Japan, the marathon runners had a hundred percent survivability from SCA when shocks were delivered within 2.2 minutes.

In short, as one study phrased it, it’s a “lottery”: You win the lottery if you have proximity to a defibrillator, but you lose if one is too far away.

Given that an estimated 80 percent of cardiac arrests happen in the home, everyone could be at risk without a home or office defibrillator. In the US and Europe, laws dictate AEDs be placed in many public spaces. On an airplane where they have an AED installed or at the gym equipped with an AED, there’s a good chance for survival. However, in the home or many offices — most of us lose the lottery.

Unless we can put AEDs into our homes and offices — and make them affordable, connected, and highly portable — we’re never going to get ahead of the problem of sudden cardiac arrest.

“Connected” Counts

Many are looking for new ways where AEDs can become more accessible world-wide. For example, the US Medtech startup, HeartHero, set out to do just that, then they created the Elliot, an automated external defibrillator. HeartHero has been working on Elliot which is endorsed by the American College of Cardiology. What sets this AED apart from being rugged, portable, and affordable is that the Elliot is a connected device that can communicate with first responders.

When you put the HeartHero Elliot pads on the patient, it analyzes the heart rhythm. Then, it puts the gathered information through an AI algorithm and determines if a shock is needed. If needed, the device automatically delivers the shock. Because of its onboard connectivity, the Elliot can auto-notify emergency services and provide the GPS location of the patient.

For HeartHero — in this instance, Vodafone is the vital link to those outside services, providing that much needed IoT component. With the advanced data and global connectivity abilities, Vodafone is able to provide network connectivity for HeartHero in over a hundred countries which means Elliot can be taken on vacation to the Maldives, Europe, Australia – anywhere.

With that IoT component, the Elliot’s onboard connectivity also lessens a barrier to entry at the workplace. Normal AEDs require monitoring: Is the battery charged? How are the pads? An automatically monitored device means office managers don’t have to proactively assure the AED is ready to go. With HeartHero, you can manage one machine or a thousand from one account.

Older models were notorious for device malfunctions. In addition, regulations and concerns about legal liability made many corporations reluctant to have an AED on hand. Connectivity removes that major stumbling block and provides great resources for individuals and businesses world-wide.

As companies look to increase AED accessibility, it is important to notice the advantages new technology like IoT has. Without the advanced technology of IoT the Elliot wouldn’t be able to provide automated assistance to self-notify emergency services and provide the GPS location of the patient no matter where they are in the world. The Elliot is just one example of how IoT technology is helping many.

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