4 predictions for AEDs of the future

Current AED technology offers strong benefits, but here’s what we predict will improve in the next 5 to 10 years. 

By Megan Wells, EMS1 Contributor 

According to a 2016 article published by the American Heart Association, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) accounts for more than 300,000 deaths in the United States, annually. Studies have shown that pairing automated external defibrillators (AEDs) with compression-only CPR increases the survival rate by 40.7 percent. 

AEDs, however, still have room to improve when it comes to survival rate. 

AED defibrillator (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)
AED defibrillator (Photo/Wikimedia Commons) (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

In the next decade, we expect AEDs to change in a few ways, specifically their availability, dimensions and communication capabilities. 

1. AEDs will be more readily available.

AEDs are usually found in high-volume locations like schools and airports. But mid-volume areas like hotels, CrossFit gyms and municipal buildings that could benefit from having AEDs on hand don’t usually have them. 

Ideally, when someone calls dispatch because a loved one is in cardiac arrest and needs an AED, 911 will be able to point the caller to the nearest AED. Apps can locate the nearest AED or person who is trained in CPR, but how can this evolve one step further to ensure better access to AEDs? 

Alec Momont, interaction designer and creator of the “Ambulance Drone” concept (a drone that delivers AEDs and other first aid supplies), gave EMS1 his predictions on how AED technology can become more accessible. 

“I'm expecting GPS-enabled AEDs, which can be mobile, like in an Uber for example, and easily requested on demand,” Momont said. “They would need to be operated by a trained responder, which would also be requested on demand.”

Allowing a dispatcher to easily locate an AED through GPS makes it is possible for an AED to arrive on scene before a paramedic, which has the potential to greatly improve the patient’s chance of survival. 

2. AED communication with bystanders will improve.

Some AEDs, like the ZOLL AED Plus provide great visual and audio prompts to help bystanders or lay rescuers through the resuscitation process. Momont predicts that these prompts will become even more user-friendly. He believes that AEDs will start to come equipped with better video instructions and eventually live video feedback to help lay rescuers during the trickiest parts of administering AED-assisted CPR. 

Communication can improve for EMTs administering shocks as well. Current AED technology provides one standard way for communication, which can be described as an “if and then” pattern. For instance, if you turn on the machine, then it speaks to you. 

If you’re an experienced user of AEDs, it’s likely you can move more effectively than the current command sequence on an AED. But making the communication prompts more proactive or customized to the way an EMT works or is trained, as compared to a layperson, could greatly improve patient care.

One example would be AEDs with touchscreen technology. Lay rescuers (like most civilians) are constantly interacting with smartphones and tablets to navigate and access information. Adding touchscreen technology to an AED could decrease the time to it takes for the patient to receive the first shock if indicated. 

3. AEDs will offer better data sharing.

For communication outside of the room in which the AED is located, current technology is limited. Some machines help paramedics streamline paperwork after the incident with an event summary, but communication in real time to an outside party can improve outcomes. 

What if, once a civilian placed the pads on a patient’s chest, the temperature, heart rate and rhythm or other vitals were sent directly to the first responder answering the call? This could help customize prompts for using an AED and could also help dispatchers and first responders respond appropriately. 

For example, if an AED were able to report asystole and senses a body temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, responding paramedics could adjust their response priority. Similarly, an AED communicating persistent ventricular fibrillation after several shocks delivers important intelligence to first-arriving paramedics. 

4. AED technology should evolve to provide smaller and lighter systems.

Technology is constantly getting smaller and more powerful. In the next five to 10 years, it’s possible for AEDs to shrink to the size of wearable technology. If we could make AEDs small enough and cheap enough to be accessed via wearable technology by the masses, we could also satisfy our first prediction – making AEDs more readily available. 

The wearable cardioverter-defibrillator is already on the market as a device designed for patients at risk of SCA who are not immediate candidates for an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. If it’s possible to create a smaller version of an AED, at scale, perhaps these lifesaving devices will become more of a commodity for the mainstream market. 

Do you have predictions for the future of AEDs? For those who use them often, what would you like to see improve? Tell us your suggestions in the comments below. 

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