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BEACON Sofware Could Aid 9-1-1 Dispatch in Developing Nations

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In America when someone gets in an accident or gets hurt, the first action most people take is to dial 9-1-1. Calling 9-1-1 gets an ambulance on the scene for rescue within minutes. In resource-limited or developing nations such as Haiti, India and many African and South American countries, calling 9-1-1 is not always a viable option. This is mostly because the telecommunications infrastructure required for dispatching first responders is not sufficiently established and, without such technology, people or patients with medical emergencies cannot alert trained first responders when medical emergencies occur.

Trek Medics International , an international humanitarian organization, has been working on leveraging SMS technology for EMS purposes for the past three and a half years. Trek Medics has been developing, and is now in the  stages of field testing a software, which will undoubtedly help solve this  important and common problem in most developing countries. This software is called BEACON.

The need for improving prehospital emergency care systems is enormous. By making these improvements, it will drastically reduce premature death and disability by speeding up delays in transportation to hospitals.

How Does BEACON Work?

In collaboration with Vision Point Systems, Trek Medics International developed BEACON, an SMS-based dispatching software, to provide dispatching systems for communities that do not have access to reliable emergency transport and communications, and similarly lack the funding to acquire them.

BEACON improves access to trained emergency medical care and transport through SMS that are relayed from the scene of an emergency to the nearest available first responders. This revolutionary software is modeled after dispatching technologies used in developed countries, but has been modified to make sure it is easy enough to use by people who live in areas with limited resources and educational backgrounds.

Beacon addresses the response gap by allowing community paramedics to quickly locate, treat, and transport emergency victims from the scene to the hospital:   

  1. A terrible motor vehicle collision occurs (Emergency Event)
  2. A witness sends an SMS to a Beacon server (Notification)
  3. The server relays the SMS to the nearest trained responders (Response)
  4. Trained responders locate the patient(s) to provide triage and basic medical care(Care On-Scene)
  5. Responders provide safe emergency transport to hospitals, with advance notification (Transport)
  6. Patients are transferred to a receiving facility (Definitive Care)   

A major obstacle for emergency dispatching systems in impoverished communities is cost. Conventional 9-1-1 systems are extraordinarily expensive. At the same time, the basic components of such a system—like mobile phones, transport vehicles and Good Samaritans willing to help—are readily available. Despite this fact, victims with life-threatening injuries and illness still find themselves without a reliable way to call for help whenever they need it.

Beacon allows patients with acute medical conditions to be directly connected to trained emergency responders using basic SMS, anywhere there’s a mobile phone signal, and has been designed specifically for communities that cannot afford conventional 9-1-1 dispatching services.

The software functions without an Internet connection, and provides an innovative and cost effective platform for emergency medical care across a wide range of resource-limited settings. The minimal human, physical and financial resources required by BEACON makes effective emergency medical system development feasible wherever mobile phones are used. Trek Medics is currently seeking partners to expand field-testing and development.

What Are The Challenges?

Some of the obstacles to building and improving emergency medical care systems (prehospital transport) in developing worlds include: the absence of structural models, poor condition of roads and high fuel costs, lack of effective responder training and extreme resource constraints in the face of a never-ending demand for services. These countries and areas need money to train people and to further test and tweak products in the field such as BEACON. Raising capital or funding is always going to be a challenge for a non profit organization.

Since Trek Medics is a 501(c)(3)-registered, non-profit, humanitarian organization they are in the first phase of testing in the field. Their pilot country of testing is in Haiti. Trek Medics is currently running a campaign to raise awareness by raising donations, with goal of $75,000 to further implement BEACON and to test it out in different communities around the globe.  

For more, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVxApPTRQnc.

About Trek Medics International

Founder/Director Jason Friesen is a paramedic by trade, and has been working in international development since 2003. He has spent many years living in Central America, the Caribbean, and Europe, working for a number of recognized international humanitarian organizations, and completed his masters in public health in 2012 through Columbia University’s Executive MPH program while living in Haiti. Jason is also a graduate of Greenwich High School ('98). Contact him at jfriesen@trekmedics.org; http://trekmedics.org.

Jaclyn Sorese is a Business Process and Compliance Specialist at Vab Media. Jaclyn is a technical writer and financial bookkeeper. She writes about subjects related to business and technology. She comes from a very strong financial and marketing background having worked for several Fortune 500 companies such as General Electric, American Express, John Hancock and Honeywell. Connect with Jaclyn on LinkedIn. Add her to your circle on Google+   

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