How connected
EMS technology
is advancing
patient care

Author: Rachel Engel

EMS technology has evolved dramatically over the years, providing emergency responders with advanced tools to better serve and save lives. From defibrillators to automated CPR machines to integrated video conferencing with specialists, EMS technology has made it possible to stabilize, treat and transport patients to hospitals more efficiently than in decades past. As technological innovations surrounding new EMS and paramedic technology continue to advance, providers of the future will have an even larger arsenal of tools when responding to emergencies.

EMS technology is constantly evolving in order to help advance patient care from the site of the incident to the emergency room. 

What EMTs are using today

Ambulances are equipped with an array of gear, supplies and technologies for emergent medical intervention. Basic life support (BLS) ambulances, dispatched for low-acute scenarios and transports, are stocked with equipment to support noninvasive stabilization of patients:

  • Oxygen and titration devices
  • Automated external defibrillators (AED)
  • Glucometers
  • Pulse oximeters
  • Newborn delivery supplies
  • Suction devices
  • Noninvasive positive pressure ventilation devices
  • Tourniquets and other wound care supplies
  • Splinting supplies for orthopedic care

Advanced life support (ALS) ambulances are equipped with the same supplies as BLS ambulances but also require unique gear to monitor patients and perform advanced procedures ahead of the ambulance's arrival at a medical facility. ALS ambulances can be stocked with additional life-saving technology for advanced-certified providers, including:

  •  Automated cardiopulmonary assist devices
  • 12-lead electrocardiography with transmittable telemetry
  • Video laryngoscopes
  • Continuous waveform capnography
  • Telepresence solutions
  • Voice-activated interfaces

Many advances of these listed technologies are predicated upon en-route connectivity and collaboration with remote stakeholders. By utilizing cellular networks in network-connected ambulances, EMS providers can communicate critical patient information in real time, enabling faster and more accurate decision-making in the field. For example, EMS providers can transmit vital signs, EKG data and other health information to receiving hospitals to support teletriage, en-route diagnostics, and disposition on arrival. EMS technology companies are continuing to innovate to advance emergency intervention and seamlessly transfer information directly to patient care report programs.

In addition to improving communication between EMS providers and hospitals, cellular network connectivity is also being used to enhance patient care in other ways. In certain smart ambulances, providers may have the option to teleconference with clinicians from the receiving facility to receive additional insights for smarter, faster pre-hospital care. This paramedic technology can help EMS providers diagnose and treat patients more effectively, especially in areas where access to specialized medical care is limited. 

How EMS technology advances patient care in rural settings

In rural areas, where an ambulance crew might need to travel farther to respond to and transport an emergent patient, reliable network connectivity and ambulances equipped with advanced technology are critical.

Of the more than 23,000 ambulance services in the country, 73% serve rural areas. These locations particularly benefit from access to EMS technology, connecting patients with difficult or complicated cases to physicians for consultation in coordination with the onboard paramedic while en route to hospitals, which could be hours away in certain areas of the country. 

New EMS technology innovations

The EMS industry is continually advancing, with new technologies and tools being developed to improve patient care. Here are a few examples of burgeoning and new EMS technology to be on the lookout for:

  1. Wearable technology: Wearable devices such as smartwatches and fitness trackers are becoming increasingly popular, and they have the potential to be used in EMS. These devices can monitor vital signs and other health data, and transmit that information to EMS providers, allowing for faster and more accurate diagnoses and treatment. The devices can also be used to monitor EMS providers during intense search and rescue operations or other situations.
  2. Drones: Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are already being used to help revolutionize the way EMS providers respond to emergencies. They can be used to deliver medical supplies, such as defibrillators, to remote or hard-to-reach areas. Drones can also be equipped with cameras to provide real-time aerial views of the scene, enabling EMS providers to assess the situation and plan their response accordingly.
  3. Artificial intelligence (AI): AI has the potential to help EMS providers diagnose and treat patients more quickly and accurately. Machine learning algorithms can be trained to recognize patterns in medical data, allowing for more precise diagnoses and treatment recommendations. The increased ability to perform advanced diagnostics in the field means an increase in data between the EMT or paramedic and the admitting hospital and provider ecosystem.
  4. Augmented reality (AR): AR technology can be used to provide EMS providers with real-time information about the patient's condition, as well as instructions for performing medical procedures. For example, AR glasses could provide a virtual overlay on the patient's body, highlighting the location of veins for easier IV placement. Some agencies are also using virtual reality (VR) to train providers, giving them an in-depth, immersive experience.

As paramedic technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see more EMS developments that will enhance the lives of community members, as well as advance providers' ability to treat on scene.

Advanced technology relies on consistent network connectivity

Ambulances equipped with advanced EMS technology give paramedics and receiving medical facilities more insight into a patient's health complications, which leads to more lives saved—but only if providers are operating on a reliable network capable of handling significant amounts of data. The field of EMS is becoming increasingly dependent on technology, as companies innovate and develop tools designed to enhance the care provided and easily organize and transmit the received data. Agencies that invest in reliable network connectivity to support innovations in emergency care give providers more opportunities to make a difference.

Learn how Verizon is prioritizing the future of healthcare by investing in digital intelligence, patient experience, remote care and more.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.