What will it take for 3G Video Emergency Calls to take off?

Had an interesting call this morning from a journalist who had picked up on 3G Doctor after reading a MobiHealthNews story about a study in Norway (conducted in 2006) that looked at the potential for 3G Video Calling to be used in the event of a medical emergency as an alternative to a conventional voice call.

It seemed to him inplausible that countries like the UK where >97% of the population lives within 3G coverage and eSMS has proven an overnight success has yet to begin even trialling the potential of this technology in its major urban areas (eg. the City of London which is little more than a square mile of land in which more than 300,000 people work). His big question was what’s it going to take to make this happen?

Even though we’ve had the technical ability to do this for years in Europe for one reason or another this opportunity is so obscure to the people that need to make the decisions that I think it’s going to take someone like Steve Jobs to walk on stage announcing Apple’s collaboration with an organisation like California’s Emergency Medical Services Authority:

> You can now use FaceTime to call 911
> It works anywhere you’ve got 3G or WiFi
> iABC (Always Best Connected) prioritizes Emergency FaceTime Calls (eg. in favor of other users wanting to download entertainment content etc)
> Access to informed medical dispatchers who on receiving your call can securely access your personal medical records and accurate location
> Image analysis for iAuthentication
> Location based iAuthentication
> Only available in California for now but we’re rolling this out across the USA

What do you think? Will we have to wait for Apple to reinvent something else we already have or will an operator step up to the plate first?

About David Doherty

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17 Responses to What will it take for 3G Video Emergency Calls to take off?

  1. Roger Heath says:

    We began working on this years ago and now are beginning a full integration of telemedicine and 911/999 calls. This will be a seamless integration of home to ambulance and 911 and hospital communications. It is also patented. See: http://www.lifebot.us.com

  2. Roger Heath says:

    We are not using Facetime, but video is only one aspect of full management of prehospital patients and particularly emergencies as they arrive. Most chronic patient, the majority, are going to have an emergency. Inevitably, everyone does. After almost four decades of working in the emergency field, I thought out all of these scenarios and how it is best to handle them. I am best known as the inventor of hands free combo or defib pads making possible the Automatic External Defibrillator. The patent that has issued is my thirty first and there are many pending. The slide show on my home page shows my home personal survival unit concept. The first problem with video to 911 is that you do not have limited medical expertise answering. A lot more info is on our web site. Thanks.

  3. Hi Roger,

    Thanks for your reply.

    I’ve checked out your website and your offering is very different from what I’ve stated above eg. informed video access using the patients own 3G video mobile on a cellular network.

    I guess we’ve got very different backgrounds but personally I see more opportunity to save lives, reduce demands on professional healthcare services and improve quality of life by leveraging the mobile phones owned by patients rather than adding more technology to ambulances.

    Unlike technology in emergency ambulances, mHealth offers the opportunity to prevent emergencies developing because the mobile is already in the patients hand before their health deteriorates to the state where there is an emergency.

    I agree with you that “video is only one aspect of full management of prehospital patients” but I also think there is an important shift happening where healthcare leaders are beginning to realise that hospitals aren’t the best starting point for patients to access healthcare.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “The first problem with video to 911 is that you do not have limited medical expertise answering”. I assume you didn’t mean to include the words “do not”.

    From the work we’ve done in this area I think this is one of the best reasons why emergency service providers shouldn’t hesitate to start introducing 3G Video services.

    Today I feel that we’re not prioritising these important professionals because of the limited value that they can add with just a voice. With mobile broadband and access to patient medical records (securely linked to the patient via caller ID) we’ll empower these professionals to add much more value eg. those with cardiac experience will be able to more effectively handle calls from patients having chest pain because they will be able to confirm from the medical records the patients allergies or contraindications to taking certain medications such as aspirin, clopidogrel or GTN spray.

    Once this happens I believe we’ll see this area of medicine become much more attractive to talented professionals and administrators will also find it much easier to measure the value of additional investments.

  4. Roger Heath says:

    Thanks. But, we cover all that too within a complete scheme that begins with cellphones, EMR, all the way to telehealth and even life support for chronic patients. For example, if the call is an existing cellphone, we connect the medical record from there through the whole process so the ambulance has it before arrival at the scene.

    This has been thought out for almost a decade. Most 911/999 operators have minimal training medically, but not a doctor or nurse. Triage is also critical is very quickly assessing a patient’s symptoms. The ambulance side is just one small element to our whole program. we have patented the necessary connection schemes to make these things work in synchronous fashion to save lives.

    So we begin with exactly what you perceive as appropriate, but we carry the whole process through all the necessary elements. When you look at our site you will see ambulance telemedicine, teletriage, and the home survival system. This includes cellphone level activation, but we connect all these together.

    This all began with a basic concept of permitting an individual to stay alive with the necessary elements before help arrives. One can start with a cellphone or a more advanced system if they are at higher risk.

  5. Hi Roger,

    It’s amazing to learn that you had this all patented and thought out long before the invention of 3G or video mobiles.

    What do you feel is the biggest factor that’s stopping you from deploying it everywhere?

    When can patients expect to be able to start sharing their personal health information with dispatchers using your patented “necessary connection schemes”?

  6. Roger Heath says:

    Ideally when a patent is written it covers the broadest forms of communications in its claims, for example, including wireless data which can include video, voice, patient record, GPS, common specific geographical locations, physiologic data, etc. That is always the objective. It can even cover wired fixed connectivity at the same time. There are limits to any patent, but we are confident that from a logistical standpoint, my patent (and pending patents) cover the most important aspects of all this as these systems evolve. That is what we mean by ‘necessary connection schemes.

    After almost four decades or designing and deploying emergency communications systems for major providers, very large cities, and institutions there is a lot of foresight here.

    If you look at our current activities we are laying the infrastructure to manage these systems with continuity throughout. Then we will proceed with the rest when there is in place ‘a destination to call’.

    This does not just include dispatch, but other initial destinations as well. That is extremely important, because the key is to get patients to call as early as possible. Many here do not want to call 911 because there can be associated bills or personal costs, it’s embarrassing, and many patients are in denial about the potential seriousness their symptoms. These obstacles must be addressed in any comprehensive plan to make such systems efficacious.

    Most individuals, if asked, will prefer a doctor or nurse at the outset of any call, not a dispatcher with limited training. Isn’t that what you would prefer if you have a serious problem. Then provisions must be made if you make the call alone and then are disabled for some reason at communicating further on the call.

    Then there are aspects of syndromic surveillance if a disaster, bioterror, or military application is involved. This is the ‘big picture’ which sometimes may be more telling than just an individual single call.

    Money is always a limiting factor to getting these solutions to market, so there is always a delay there too. We are working hard to make all this happen. Our partnership with the world’s largest technology company, Hewlett Packard, will play an important role in making these solutions widely available world-wide.

  7. Roger Heath says:

    BTW, we are on Mobile Health News as well. See http://mobihealthnews.com/10052/interview-roger-lee-heaths-lifebot-and-super-ambulances/

    In all honesty, none of the big computing companies are experienced in this new application at all. We have already been thinking about such systems for years. That’s why we coined and trademarked ‘LifeBot’, “a robot that helps you to survive or even keeps you alive until help arrives.”

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