Enabling the 'connected ambulance'

How 5G, IoT, and FirstNet can enable ambulances to further enhance emergency care

by Rod Cruz, GM, Healthcare Solutions, AT&T Business

Imagine you’re an EMT. You receive a Priority 109D-1, 10C2 call. It’s an unresponsive patient with cardiac history. You know that more than 335,000 cardiac arrests a year happen outside a hospital. Of those, only 6% survive. The quicker you can get to the patient, learn their history, evaluate the situation, communicate to the ER team, and give care, the higher the chance of survival. But the window is tight.

We here at AT&T Business talk a lot about 5G and its future effect on healthcare. After all, most of the modern healthcare system is built on wireless networks. They support hundreds, if not thousands, of users in a single location. But, it’s more than just better connectivity. It’s also what can be connected and how far that connectivity can reach. One concept AT&T is working on in this regard is the idea of connected ambulances.

FirstNet, Built by AT&T, and emerging 5G and Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) connectivity platforms and technologies have the potential to make ambulances dynamic rolling hubs of information. They could bring a virtual ER to the scene of an accident and that could enhance the odds for positive outcomes and saving people’s lives.

Connected ambulances: first step toward hospitals without borders

What we’re doing is bringing together networks. So, whether we're talking 5G, IoMT, FirstNet, or the macro cellular network, they must work together in concert to enable the connected ambulance.

5G is the next gen of wireless communications. It will eventually work with a variety of technologies, like FirstNet, IoMT, and more. With the speed and latency advantages, 5G networks will usher digital transformation to new scales in healthcare.

FirstNet is the U.S.’s first nationwide public safety communications platform dedicated to first responders. It gives them priority on the network so they can communicate and coordinate. With 5G, IoMT, and the cellular network, FirstNet solutions can be even better. How?

Let’s go back to our scenario in the first paragraph. You’re an EMT on your way to an unresponsive patient. But in this scenario, you’re riding in a connected ambulance.

How does this connected ambulance help the patient?

First, you, as the EMT, would be able to take the most direct route possible using near-real-time traffic information. On the way, the you might get a head start on patient background—near-real-time access to the person’s medical records and history.

Once you arrive, you check vitals with IoMT-connected medical devices capturing body temperature, pulse rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure. FirstNet and the macro cellular networks allow you to share patient status virtually seamlessly with the hospital, and you can triage with a team of medical professionals at the ER.

Next, you establish a telehealth session with the ER. The ER staff and the medical team begin administering medical orders at the scene and during return transit. ER expertise is at your fingertips, the patients’ vitals are being monitored in near-real-time, and the personnel back at the hospital begin preparing the proper care routine for when the patient arrives. The odds of saving the patient’s life have increased significantly.

5G, FirstNet and IoMT, working separately or together, have the potential to create a hospital without borders; to virtually extend its reach well beyond the walls of their facility. It's a way to collect vital information and move it to different points within different work streams and the point of care.

5G gives one solution a multitude of opportunities

What we’re discovering is that 5G isn’t just about new devices and solutions. It’s also about how we can improve and expand upon the solutions we already have by leveraging this powerful connectivity platform.

FirstNet was a solution specifically catered to first responders out in the field during an emergency. But in the future, 5G will eventually allow us to tap that technology into new use ambulatory use cases, including moving large images and video files through the 5G network. Finding innovative ways to use the macro cellular network, FirstNet, IoMT, and eventually 5G networks have the potential to transform how healthcare is delivered and, ultimately, could be the difference between life and death for many people.

This is one of our most innovative initiatives that we've got on our radar, and we are very excited about the work we can do with this. Utilizing our wireless connectivity portfolio will drive new innovation and transformation in the healthcare industry.