5 wearable technologies for EMS
Wearable technologies are connecting paramedics to data in new ways
By Mary Rose Roberts, Product Editor
From providing access to medical records and dictionaries, to streaming live video to an emergency room physician for guidance on patient care, wearable technologies are connecting paramedics, EMTs and hospitals in new ways.
Here are five wearable technologies for EMS providers that have the potential to improve access to data and support the emerging telemedicine model.
Epson and Evena Medical’s Eyes-On Glasses
Epson and Evena Medical’s Eyes-On Glasses are smart glasses that let health care practitioners literally see through a patient's skin to the vasculature level. The technology is based on Epson's Moverio Smart Glasses Technology, an Android-based, see-through wearable display that uses multi-spectral lighting to display veins beneath the skin.
Two digital cameras inside the glasses transmit images wirelessly, allowing, for example, a paramedic treating a patient to send images to ER physicians. It also supports other telemedicine applications, such as connecting to hospital electronic medical records (EMR) systems for automated documentation and patient data. An on-board data storage feature provides easy documentation, so videos and photos can be used later for training purposes.
Globe Manufacturing’s Wearable Advanced Sensor Platform (WASP) is a body-worn system that integrates physiological monitoring and location tracking into a single system.
WASP includes Zephyr Technologies’ BioHarness 3, a physiological status monitoring system on a strap that is sewn into a fire-resistant duty T-shirt. The system tracks real-time firefighter heart rate, respiration, activity levels and other physiological factors, and is a critical technology for EMS chiefs tracking the location and health of paramedics, EMTs and firefighters in the field.
The data is wirelessly transmitted through the firefighter’s portable radio to a data terminal located at an EMS or incident command post nearby, providing EMS chiefs with near real-time physiological information.
Although Google Glass has not been released commercially, apps already exist to help EMS — including a litany of medical libraries and other searchable references that have the potential to display such data on Google Glass and other smart glasses hitting store shelves.
Apps for smartphones already exist to help responders locate the address of a call from dispatch. Google Glass displays that information at eye-level through a mapping software so you don’t have to look down as you’re driving. A connected ambulance may someday wirelessly stream vehicle speed, GPS coordinates and more on Glass.
Hospitals are already testing the technology to stream live images of a patient’s medical condition to specialists. Future apps may include the ability to pull up patient medical data to better determine course of care, display patient vitals and quickly search for medical procedures — all hands-free as they work on the patient en route to the hospital.
Motorola Solutions currently offers the HC1 headset computer, a hands-free wearable computer ideal for harsh environments and remote locations. The HC1 has a micro-display equivalent to a virtual 15-inch screen, advanced voice recognition, head gesture controls and video streaming of data — providing users with hands-free access to medical information while working on a patient. EMTs can provide ER doctors with video or photos before patient arrival. At the same time, the headset’s dual, bi-directional noise-cancelling microphones and near-ear loudspeaker keeps emergency communications clear between EMS, dispatch and hospitals. With encrypted Bluetooth-enabled data entry options, it can be a highly customizable tool to track and report EMS incidents and transmit the data wirelessly to supervisors, making paper reporting obsolete.
Samsung Galaxy Gear
Smartwatches truly are one of the hottest trends in consumer technology. The wrist-worn computers, such Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, links up with Samsung's Galaxy smartphones and tablets to let users know when they receive a call, text message or e-mail.
The company’s newest versions, the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, have a heart rate sensor, a pedometer and various tools to measure exercise, sleep and stress levels that can help paramedics and EMTs track their health. A low-resolution, 2-megapixel camera on the main body is a bonus feature, allowing users to point their wrist and shoot video and photos. While HIPPA is always an issue with video, taking multi-media images and transmitting them to a remote physician further supports the telemedicine model.
Expect wearable technologies for the consumer market to increase — providing myriad opportunities to take off-the-shelf technologies and adapt them for field work, giving paramedics and EMTs access to data and telemedicine applications.