In today’s time, the patient’s life depends on how fast they can be brought under medical supervision and treatment. The emergency medical services (EMS) hold huge significance in cases of strokes, cardiac arrest, and life-threatening accidents, providing immediate care to patients, says Reetika Bose of Elets News Network (ENN).
In any emergency, time is considered very crucial. Sometimes even a minute matters the most when it comes to the battle of life and death. The value of time should be given much more importance, to be able to take quick and right decisions. Any delay in time, or a simple mistake can cost a patient his life. It is a well-accepted fact that a patient who receives basic care from trained professionals and is transported to the nearest healthcare facility within 15-20 minutes of an emergency has the greatest chance of survival.
Talking of timely patient care, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is an essential part of the overall healthcare system as it save lives by providing care immediately. With the country advancing in nearly all the sectors, the healthcare sector is not behind with regards to providing patient care and proper healthcare facilities in the quickest time possible.
EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES – THE NEED OF THE NATION
Emergency Medical Service or EMS is of immense importance to the world at large. Losing a loved one to illness or an accident is painful. However, what often stings even more, is the realisation that they might have been alive today if medical action was taken swifter and more urgently. Highlighting the importance of EMS, Dr Shailesh Shetty, Consultant, Emergency Medicine – Aster CMI Hospital said, “Emergency Medical services cater to the immediate needs of a person requiring medical attention. They are formed by a group of trained personnel and include a paramedic, driver and a doctor depending on the case.”
When asked about the current scenario of emergency health services in India, Manish Sacheti, CFO, Ziqitza HealthCare said, “While EMS services are extremely well developed in countries like United States, they were severely lacking in India till early 2000. Despite other developments in the healthcare sector, India had yet to establish a single, comprehensive EMS system that could be accessed by all. The existing system was fragmented and did not meet the acute demand. The main providers of ambulance services were private ambulance owners, hospitals, NGOs, and government agencies. Some services were free, while others were not.”
ARE WE MISSING OUT ON THE GOLDEN HOUR?
Sometimes even minutes matter when it comes to the battle of life and death. We all deserve the right to timely medical care but are we really getting that swift and smooth medical care? Well, in today’s time, a patient’s life depends on how fast they can be brought under medical supervision and treatment. Yes, especially in cases of strokes, breathing problems and life-threatening accidents, emergency medical services become extremely important.
The first crucial minutes really matter for a patient. Someone struck with cardiac arrest needs the revival to be done within four minutes, angioplasty in a heart attack needs to conducted within 90 minutes and a road traffic accident victim needs to be provided on the spot first aid within 10 minutes and the victim’s vital parameters should stabilise in an hour. Advanced ambulance care needs to reach the victim within four minutes.
Talking about the challenges, Dr Rajeev Boudhankar, CEO-Bhatia Hospital, Mumbai said, “There is the need for an effective healthcare system with good facilities and pre-arrival notifications. Needless to say that in order to augment the productivity of EMS in an emerging economy such as India, it is essential to create general awareness about the EMS ecosystem.
Paramedics need to be trained on new life-saving techniques. Further, EMS documents should be standardized so that there can be seamless inter- facility patient transfer. Addressing these gaps will help mitigate the challenges of all the key stakeholders and their capabilities on the EMS supply side.”
“An early response can sometimes be crucial in emergency cases that require immediate attention such as a patient suffering from a stroke or a heart attack”, Dr Shetty added.
With such primary concerns, it is essential to see how the hospitals and the government in particular are getting proactive in bringing out measures to solve these problems of immediate patient care.
HOSPITALS & NGOS- SAVING LIVES
It is disheartening to see the increase in number of people who are dying due to inadequate medical emergency services. Recently, NGOs and hospitals have come forward to provide their own EMSs. There have been considerable efforts by states across India to develop emergency services.
Stating about emergency medical services take us back to the first ever service in India that has been the pioneer in this segment, more than 2 million patients since its inception. Since August 2005, the 108 medical emergency response, started by Emergency Management & Research Institute (EMRI), a non- profit organisation, has touched a population of 800 million till date.
On similar grounds, the Kashmiri American Society of Healthcare, Medical Education and Research (KASHMER) is all set to launch EMS services in Srinagar. In collaboration with SAVE HEART Kashmir and HELP Foundation, this non-profit organsiation is paving the path for urgent patient care where these kinds of services were almost non- existent till now. This will have a huge impact in Kashmir’s healthcare delivery system.
All patients should have access to world-class care no matter where they live. To achieve this goal, Multi Super Speciality Hospital, Medanta, with its dedicated team of specially trained doctors, nurses, pilots and support staff, has created ‘Flying Doctors India’ to help evacuate patients from even the most remote areas. It is one of those few hospitals in India to provide tertiary medical care on board an aircraft even at an altitude of 30,000 feet. Medanta’s Flying Doctors is available round the clock, eliminating all geographical barriers in the city.
On similar grounds, Chennai- based Apollo Hospitals has launched an air ambulance service to connect small cities in the South. Later it expanded its services to Delhi and Bengaluru. The idea was to launch air ambulance network that connects smaller towns, thus creating an ecosystem that facilitates better access to the tertiary care at the right time.
Dr Rajeev Boudhankar, CEO- Bhatia Hospital, Mumbai said, “EMS and private hospital systems must interact in such a way that there is a synchronized effort in saving patients’ lives.”
To start with, the Government should implement policies that provide effective, quality service – i.e. to ensure that patients iget immediate care at health facilites from experts. Moreover, the service that is cost efficient in implementation, maintenance and development is the primary concern. Since no person should be refused the care, the government has come up with several initiatives pertaining to immediate medical care.
With the worsening traffic conditions in the capital, it is high time that the government should experiment with different modes of transport in metro cities. Talking of which, Delhi has witnessed some of the advancements in terms of medical emergency. The Aam Aadmi party led Delhi Government has started bike ambulance services in the capital city. Recently, a fleet of 16 bikes was launched by Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal at the Secretariat in order to provide services to patients residing in narrow bylanes of the city where it is convenient for the bikes to provide immediate medical care. Known as ‘First Responder Vehicles’, these bike ambulances are equipped with a portable oxygen cylinder, first aid kit, air splints as well as GPS and a communication device.
Furthermore, the government is doing wonders in providing air ambulance services not just for the common people but also for the ones who serve at the the borders. A one of its kind air ambulance service has been sanctioned for troops deployed in anti-naxal operations and those posted at high-altitude border posts. The ambulance will be on a Mi-17 helicopter platform of the Border Security Force (BSF) and it will be stationed at Jharkhand’s capital Ranchi. Medical equipments like oxygen cylinders and stabilisers will also be provided on the chopper.
TECHNOLOGY – BRINGING A PARADIGM SHIFT
Technology, with its rapid evolution has been taking several industries in India by storm. Likewise, healthcare has been very welcoming to technological advancements like Artificial Intelligence due to its effectiveness of saving lives with speed being their biggest advantage. AI has been making inroads in this sector to ensure not just a quick turnaround, but also accessibility to those in dire need of medical aid and care. Keeping the quality consistent, sophisticated machine learning algorithms are being developed to enhance the Emergency Medical Services. The country is indeed hopeful of prompt medical services for urban and rural areas in the country.
Experts believe that this will indeed be a big step towards sustainable healthcare, which will ensure quality and accessibility, along with affordability for all. AI’s promise to enhance emergency care and healthcare via robot-assisted services, early detection, virtual medical professionals and more is a big ray of hope for India.
AI, specially Machine Learning is expected to become an integral part of emergency medical care and healthcare in the near future. Technological advancements primarily help improve the quality and accessibility of services by maintaining health records and a GPS tracking system in ambulances. With the right blend of its boons like AI and IoT, a bright future in the business of saving lives across India is not far away.
FUTURE FOCUSED EMERGENCY SERVICES
Commenting on the future of the EMS, Dr. Boudhankar said, “There is a need for evidence-based and future- focused work in EMS. It requires for state government data to be made available to academics, policymakers, and the public.” Over the years several advancements have been made and research is underway to create services that provide medical assistance to patients at the earliest. However, the state of EMS varies drastically from developed to developing countries like India. In spite of the development in the healthcare sector over the past decade, India is yet to create a single, comprehensive EMS that can be accessed throughout the country.