mHealth and Emergency Medical Services

     There was no better glaring example of the effects of a poor emergency communications system in a disaster than September 11, 2000 at the World Trade Center. Emergency personnel utilized antiquated and previously questioned technology.  Wireless technology has already been shown to be of increased benefit in the emergency setting. Emergencies may be large-scale or personal, and both benefit from advances in mHealth tools.

Recently a new program called PLAN (Personal Localized Alerting Network) was announced by FEMA and the FCC, being instituted in Washington, DC and New York City. Cell phone customers will receive text messages (at no charge) of local emergencies.  In a recent report by the World Health Organization based on the second global survey of eHealth services, 55% of members had a mHealth initiative for emergency toll-free mobile phone service, and 54% had one for managing emergencies and disasters. (       Wireless health technologies in emergency situations have been utilized to diagnose heart attacks by wireless transmission of electrocardiograms by paramedics to emergency room personnel to expedite treatment even before the patient arrives. Remote monitoring of implantable defibrillators alerts physicians to device malfunction or ineffective delivered therapies. One excellent discussion on the important components to be included when developing an emergency medical response system states that many may be enhanced if not totally addressed with wireless technologies. The components include manpower, training, communications, transportation, consumer participation, access  to  care,  patient  transfer,  coordinated  patient  record‐keeping,  public  information  and  education, disaster planning, and mutual aid. (VanRooyen, M.J., Thomas, T.L., Clem, K.J. “International emergency medical services: assessment of developing prehospital systems abroad.” J. Emerg. Med. 1999; 17(4):691‐69).

Emergency access to electronic health records in the setting of a personal or large-scale emergency is important. The destruction of hospitals, clinics, and medical offices with the loss of massive paper files as a result of hurricane Katrina highlighted the need for EHRs (with remote servers or Cloud sourcing) which would outlast such a catastrophe.

So when considering mHealth, we must include emergency services as a part of the development and implementation processes.  We should learn from mistakes and take the recommendation of The 9/11 Commission and ramp up quality in our utilized technologies.

An interesting overview of the topic may be found at: and:

Some excellent general information on barriers and gaps in mHealth solutions in low and  middle-income countries with a section on emergency services may be found at:


About davidleescher

David Lee Scher, MD is Founder and Director at DLS HEALTHCARE CONSULTING, LLC, which specializes in advising digital health technology companies, their partners, investors, and clients. As a cardiac electrophysiologist and pioneer adopter of remote patient monitoring, he understood early on the challenges that the culture and landscape of healthcare present to the development and adoption of digital technologies. He is a well-respected thought leader in mobile and other digital health technologies. Scher lectures worldwide on relevant industry topics including the role of tech in Pharma, patient advocacy, standards for development and adoption, and impact on patients and healthcare systems from clinical, risk management, operational and marketing standpoints. He is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine.
This entry was posted in disaster relief, emergency medicine, Healthcare IT, mHealth, mobile health, smartphone apps, technology, wireless health and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s