Replicating the Indian model of emergency medical care in emerging countries

By Prabhdeep Singh

Emergency medical response is essential to a strong health system. Trauma management and emergency care must be a priority area when considering the scale and population of a country like India. Recognizing this criticality, emergency medical services are now a priority area for the government and several tech-focused start-ups. In recent years, the Indian government has taken significant steps to improve the healthcare infrastructure in the country through a series of reforms. A number of initiatives such as PMSSY (Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojna), AB-PMJAY (Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna), improving medical education, AYUSH ministry efforts, kits emergency response and health systems preparedness have helped create a comprehensive health care paradigm for the new India. The government also recently launched the Emergency Response Support System (ERSS), an integrated emergency response mechanism with a single emergency number 112 to respond to various emergencies faced by citizens.

Health and health technology start-ups are advancing the work done by the government in the field. Ambulance and triage services in India are undergoing huge changes in terms of technology, equipment and skilled personnel. Many start-ups help manage victims during the critical golden hour, a time when immediate primary medical care can help stabilize the patient to remain viable for detailed treatment later. The patient, in most cases, is responsive during the golden hour, and primary medical help can help them through the time needed to get to the hospital and access proper medical care.

Developing and emerging countries in Asia and Africa, which have similar health and related problems, can take inspiration from India’s book to solve their health problems. With a larger population per km2 and a lack of qualified personnel, the health infrastructure of many emerging countries is under enormous pressure. Their EMS system is far from adequate, which leads to many losses. Also, unlike India, many of these countries have a weak startup ecosystem and their technological advancements are still in their infancy to be able to meet the challenges of emergency healthcare. While some of them have been able to improve their death rates and a few other health index markers, their EMS systems are struggling and, just like India, they can grow rapidly if they follow in its footsteps.

Developing a robust EMS: While developing a robust EMS is possible, it is necessary to understand the prerequisites to work on and close the gaps. Hospitals, especially public sector hospitals, have limited resources and weak infrastructure, which makes it difficult to treat and manage medical emergencies. The lack of training of medical personnel, a fleet of obsolete ambulances and legal compliances are significant obstacles. Additionally, lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders, standardization and enforcement issues are a barrier.

Rapid dispatch of ambulances: The arrival of ambulances is of crucial importance in the event of an emergency. A patient’s condition deteriorates over time and emergency medical care can help stabilize them and is essential to help them reach the nearest health facility to access care. With technology and positioning ambulances in strategic locations, help can arrive sooner and lives can be saved during the crucial golden hour.

EMT and Qualified Paramedics Team: EMTs and Paramedics are essential for ambulances. They can prevent the patient’s condition from further deteriorating during transport. The golden hour service they provide, keeps the patient’s responsiveness to the medical care they can receive, after reaching the hospital.

Triage (understanding how critical a situation is): Through experience caring for these patients, EMTs and paramedics can judge the nature of the medical emergency and the type of medical care required. The technology again comes to the aid of paramedics who can access the patient’s digital health records and keep a minute-by-minute note of how the patient is responding to emergency care. Thanks to this, they can be quick on their heels to decide the condition of the patient.

Destination Selection: Triage can help paramedics decide the time available and select the nearest hospitals that would be best for patient care and resuscitation. Once the patient has been released from any imminent danger, it would be possible to transfer him to the hospital of his choice.

India’s emergency segment start-ups have worked tirelessly to develop a system that replicates the 911 model prevalent in the United States. Through their efforts, they create an effective EMS system which, if replicated, can help emerging countries reduce losses caused by the factors listed above. The smart use of technology and logistics provides a scalable model that can help governments, corporate partners, hospitals, hotels, healthcare facilities in rural areas, and patients in all segments gain access to prompt emergency service during golden hour while allowing them to stay focused on their core business areas. This model would be a boon during future health emergencies or pandemics like the recent and unprecedented COVID 19 crisis.

(The author is the founder and CEO of StanPlus. The opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)