Better Than a Bracelet

By Eric Griffith

May 10, 2002

A new medical service uses FM, 802.11, and Bluetooth to transmit your health stats from the site of an accident to the responding emergency team.

Call it a high-tech MedicAlert. The famous bracelet with the single-serpent caduceus tells emergency responders to make a phone call to get identification and medical condition information. The new RoadMedic System does it one better by sending such data directly to ambulance personal over a combination of FM radio, 802.11, and Bluetooth transmissions.

Developed by Roadside Telematics Corporation of Aliso Viejo, CA, in partnership with CUE Corporation of Irvine, CA (with a little help on the side from D-Link), in the case of an accident the RoadMedic service automatically takes medical data registered ahead of time with a roadside assistance provider and sends it to the ambulance.

"What we are is an electronic automated version of the medical bracelet," says RoadSide Telematic's President & CEO Larry Williams.

"There are many companies that are 'pull' medical info services. You put your info on the Net, it's stored in some file, but it requires medical people to make a call to access that info. It doesn't make sense in roadside emergencies." Such data can consist of emergency contacts, physician's name, or details of existing medical conditions if users decide to list them.

Williams described a typical use of RoadMedic using the OnStar system found in many cars as an example (the company currently has no deal with OnStar or any other roadside assistance service in place): "When an OnStar car crashes, there's a wireless alert sent from the car that there's been an airbag deployment. The Onstar center connects to you in your car. They say 'This is OnStar. Are you all right?' I say no, it's a bad accident. 'Is this Mr. Williams.' Yes. So they've made the confirmation that it's Mr. Williams. They then trigger the database with my profile, fuse it with the location, and routes it to emergency services."

The data is routed through Intel's National Emergency Messaging System (NEMS) to Cue's radio data network. The RoadMedic service broadcasts on Cue's FM subcarrier facilities in more than 600 radio stations and data is received via an FM Gateway that sits in the ambulance. The gateway then forwards the data to a patient monitoring system such as the Mobimed units from Ortivus AB using Bluetooth or 802.11 (via a D-Link access point that would be on board the vehicle). Such data can be received anywhere in the country.

The data is instantly available to emergency personal without them having to search for it, allowing them to work faster. As another selling point, data collection also means less paperwork since the data doesn't have to be re-keyed in to use, plus knowing all about the patient up front automate the billing of patients for services.

"Ambulances can more effectively bill since the attendants don't have to spend time worrying about harvesting billing information," notes Williams.

RoadMedic plans to comply with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to protect individual patient confidentiality. How can they respond to the already inherent security risks of some 802.11 setups? Williams didn't feel it would be too much of an issue.

"As it related to data encryption, that last mile of delivering info, that's probably D-Link or another suppliers issue to address at some point. This is specifically the reason the RoadMedic only deals with critical data. MedicAlert bracelets only carry what you want people to have. Same here. The data is only things you want people to know.

"It's all about getting the right info to the right people on any device to save lives," says Williams. "That's what we do."

RoadMedic is currently finalizing field trial deployments in various areas around the country, including Oakland, CA.



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