Healthcare Economy

New Tool Could Help Doctors Save Lives

A great deal of medical research is aimed at saving lives. Many of the top 10 causes of death are preventable, or at least can be delayed. These include heart disease, cancer, stroke and some forms of diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of these can be treated surgically or by medications. Many of these options were not available in the middle of the 20th century.

One effect of better medical treatment is how long Americans live. Life expectancy in the United States was 69 years in 1960. That figure has risen to 79 years. Last year, it stopped the improvement, primarily because of deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic.

One challenge for the medical community is how fast people who are badly injured or have life-threatening illnesses can get to hospitals or be treated on their way. Heart attacks that stop the heart from pumping are one example. When oxygen to the brain is stopped, the consequences can be serious. About half of heart attack victims later have “cognitive issues,” according to NewLifeRehab.

Not all methods meant to save lives come from medical research. Reuters Health writes that drones can be used to get external defibrillators to heart attack victims in as little as three minutes. The Reuters story references a report in the New England Journal of Medicine that examined a study from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. Its authors wrote that use of drones “has the potential to be a relevant and important part in the chain of survival in the future.”

Drones are already used for a large number of tasks once done by other means of transportation. Among the most recent example is their use by the Ukrainian military in its war with Russia. The U.S. Air Force has replaced many functions done by aircraft with drones that eliminate the use of expensive planes that put pilots at risk. These drones can be controlled from thousands of miles away.

Drones are also used for much more mundane tasks, like Amazon’s launch of them to deliver packages. Amazon calls its service Prime Air. These drones have complex navigation systems that keep them from colliding with planes.

If drone use for delivering medical services to people with serious conditions expands widely, doctors may have another modern means to save lives.

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