Having a complete and dedicated AED Program provides the backbone of Life Saving Emergency Response

By Chris Metcalfe, B.A. EMT-P, and Edward Wasser B.A., M.D. D.A.A.P.M.

Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are becoming quite common in workplaces and public places across North America.  The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada along with major US Medical Response organizations (Red Cross, and the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine) all encourage the placement of AEDs where use can be provided within 3 minutes of a cardiac event.

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Deploying AEDs in Canadian workplaces has become an important part of a comprehensive health and safety plan, especially since sudden cardiac arrest causes 13 percent of workplace fatalities according to OSHA.  Now that people are realizing how simple and reliable AEDs are to use, trained users (anyone who takes a CPR class now learns how to use an AED) are in a position to dramatically improve survival from sudden cardiac death.

However, for the improvement in survival to occur requires a well planned response (a game plan) and functional AED equipment.  It becomes clear, when placing AEDs in any location, that usage will probably be infrequent, but when required, it is absolutely a matter of life-and-death whether the game plan and the equipment function properly.

In one case, a man died of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) after two AEDs that were placed near the scene had dead batteries, and did not function.  This kind of situation can be avoided by having a comprehensive AED Life Saving Program that links all of the elements of an AED Program (AED equipment tracking, training, service, medical oversight) in one integrated system.

These AED Program components should be overseen by the AED Program Medical Director.  The M.D. makes sure the program’s policies and procedures meet not only provincial and federal regulations, but are integrated into a sound emergency response plan that seeks to save and improve the quality of life of any patient.  Medical oversight ensures continuity of care from bedside to emergency room and intensive care unit by the Medical Director communicating directly with treating physicians regarding the nature of the event and ensuring the AED downloaded cardiograms end up in the right hands. Patients successfully resuscitated are at great risk of cardiac arrest again and may require an implantable defibrillator as a life line against future events. In a Canadian study, only 26.7% of patients successfully resuscitated were referred for an implantable defibrillator (ICD) in Canada. That means that 73% were never given this opportunity. This is truly a missed opportunity with potentially fatal results.

This kind of Quality Assurance increases the chance for successful emergency responses to cardiac arrests, and protects the employer or public facility from any potential liability.

Since AED equipment should be inspected and serviced regularly, a supplier who provides a complete AED Life-Saving Program is a wise first choice.  As one recent corporate buyer said, ”What’s the point in spending several thousand dollars to buy an AED, only to neglect proper service and training which will make sure your AED is ready to use that one time it could save a life?”

To provide an example of how AEDs are able to save lives, an example from the American Heart Association about a cardiac arrest at work illustrates this:

“A 41-year-old worker at a manufacturer of heating and air conditioning systems suffered a sudden cardiac arrest at work.  After 3 shocks and CPR he was revived within 4 minutes.  Fortunately, his company had AEDs and trained responders.  By the time EMS personnel arrived, he had been resuscitated and was moved to a hospital.  The employee survived.”

Not only did this employee survive – he was provided with important follow-up care by the AED Program Medical Director, who, working with the patient’s cardiologist suggested that the employee receive an implantable defibrillator.

While early defibrillation is now recognized by most people as a critical link in the Heart and Stroke Foundation Chain of Survival, and increasing numbers of AEDs are being placed in facilities, a turnkey AED Program (training, maintenance and Medical Oversight) is the best assurance of readiness to save a life over the long term.

About the authors

Chris Metcalfe is CEO of MediQuest Technologies Inc. (www.mediquest.ca, toll-free 1-866-831-3227), which provides Life Saving Automated External Defibrillator Programs to government and industry.  Headquartered in North Vancouver, BC, MediQuest delivers it services across Canada through its network of partners.

Dr. Wasser operates MEDEVAQ Inc., an Emergency Medicine group that designs Emergency Medical Systems, coordinates international EMS healthcare initiatives, and air ambulance evacuation and repatriation. Dr. Wasser serves as Medical Director of EMS & Automated External Defibrillation (AED) Programs for numerous organizations including MediQuest Technologies Inc. Dr. Wasser was recently awarded the Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of his Emergency Medical work for Canadians by the Prime Minister.

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