Drones speed up hospital response to emergencies

  • April 29, 2024
  • Steve Rogerson

Tampa General Hospital (TGH) is speeding up response times to health-related emergencies with drone delivery.

Working with Archer First Response Systems (Archer FRS), the integrated drone delivery system will provide life-saving equipment to eligible 9-1-1 callers in Manatee County on Florida’s Gulf Coast starting this week.

“Through the use of technology and innovation, Tampa General Hospital is transforming health care,” said John Couris, CEO of TGH. “This first-in-the-nation programme can effectively save lives by responding to health-related emergencies faster than ever before. We’re grateful to our partners in Manatee County, and we’re excited to see this vision come to life. With the ability to measure the impact of this programme on the community, we can determine how the technology can be used in more scalable, reproducible ways for the broader benefit of our state.”

This programme is said to be the first in the USA to use drone technology to support emergency response efforts with the delivery of a payload carrying an automated external defibrillator (AED), Narcan nasal spray and a tourniquet. With rapid access to lifesaving equipment, individuals benefit from increased chance of survival and better health outcomes.

“Archer FRS is committed to ushering in the next generation of life-saving emergency response,” said Gordon Folkes, chief executive officer of Archer FRS. “Sudden cardiac arrest, opioid overdose and trauma impact hundreds of thousands of people in the USA each year; there is a real need for a paradigm shift in the treatment and response to these time-critical emergencies. Unmanned aircraft provide a unique utility in their ability to fly quickly and directly to the scene of an emergency and pose exceptional promise to decrease response times, save lives and improve outcomes.”

Archer FRS uses Freefly Systems Altax unmanned aircraft equipped with an ASTM-certified parachute recovery system, ADS-B receiver, on-board computer and LTE cell modem. The system is installed at the Manatee County EMS Lakewood Ranch Station on Malachite Drive.

“This is an amazing opportunity to be on the cutting edge of technology in emergency response,” said Manatee County Board of County Commissioners chair Mike Rahn. “We are excited that this first-of-its-kind programme is taking flight first here in Manatee County.”

Beginning this week, when an individual in the coverage area calls 9-1-1 with reports of cardiac arrest, opioid overdose or trauma, the Manatee County ECC Dispatch will initiate deployment of the drone. The equipment is expected to reach the caller between one minute 45 seconds and two minutes ten seconds. Dispatch will walk the 9-1-1 caller through the application of the equipment needed while traditional emergency response vehicles are on the way.

Over the next year, TGH, Archer FRS and Manatee County will evaluate the performance and effectiveness of the programme to determine how the technology can be used to serve more residents across the state.

AEDs are used to respond to individuals experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. Each year, 350,000 people in the USA experience a cardiac arrest outside the hospital and only ten per cent survive. Narcan nasal spray can prevent death in the event of overexposure to opioids. Last year, more than 112,000 Americans died from opioid-related exposure. The tourniquet is used to apply pressure and stop blood loss for individuals with trauma-related injuries. Each payload delivered by the drone includes one AED and one dose of nasal spray. In the coming weeks, the payload will be expanded to include one tourniquet.

“Our team has diligently worked with the FAA to ensure strict adherence to safety standards for the deployment of life-saving equipment via drones within the Manatee County community,” said Jason Swoboda, director of innovation at TGH. “Over the past several years, we have engaged with the FAA to align both the drone technology and the operational protocols with the FAA’s rigorous requirements. Our commitment remains in prioritising the safety and reliability of the programme.”

More information on the programme can be found at www.mymanatee.org/drone.

TGH (www.tgh.org) is a 981-bed, not-for-profit, academic health system and one of the largest hospitals in America.

Archer FRS (archerfrs.com) equips first responders with the ability to transport critical medical supplies, including AEDs, swiftly and efficiently for cardiac emergencies and Narcan for overdose situations. By streamlining the adoption process for emergency drone delivery, it empowers 911 agencies to incorporate this life-saving technology seamlessly into their operational workflows.