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During emergency relief efforts, a common tactic among responders is the practice of triage, which involves placing color-coded tags onto patients to determine the severity of their injury and allow medical help to be distributed more efficiently. Now the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology has developed eTriage, a digital wristband system that lets emergency services track injured citizens on the ground.
Typically, triage involves a tiered system whereby patients with minor injuries are given a green tag and low priority, through amber and red for more serious casualties and black for those beyond the medical attention available at the time. eTriage uses the same classifications, but each wristband features a GPS locator and a chip that connects it to an independent ZigBee network set up in the case of a disaster or catastrophe. Those with more serious injuries are given a tag that also feature sensors that relay details about their vital signs to medics on the ground. All of the data can be tracked in real time via tablets or smartphones, enabling responders to immediately see where help is needed and make decisions that could effectively save the greatest number of lives. As Erion Elmasllari, one of the Fraunhofer scientists behind the device, explains: “With our eTriage system, a severely injured person categorized as red is reported within no more than 30 seconds and can be evacuated immediately. With the conventional paper tag method, it often takes up to 30 minutes before the victim is evacuated.”
Since communication is one of the first things that breaks down when disaster strikes, eTriage creates a flow of accurate and constantly updating information. The device is currently being tested with a relief organization, but previous trials have offered encouraging results. Are there other systems that could be digitized to help medics deliver quicker and more effective healthcare in emergency situations?