Guest Column | July 24, 2019

6 Ways Tech Has Improved Responses To Mass Casualty Incidents

By Kayla Matthews, Productivity Bytes

Emergency Care Services Coding

Whether one is talking about large medical facilities or local support teams, mass casualty incidents (MCIs) are not only difficult to quantify, but they’re also incredibly challenging to deal with and mitigate.

Even more confusing is the definition or proposed requirements for what constitutes a mass casualty incident in the first place. Large-scale events involving 20 or more people with minor injuries seem like they would apply, but in most cases, they don’t.

A more limited incident that includes four or five people with major injuries doesn’t seem like it would qualify, yet it can. It’s more about the preparedness for all involved, as well as the medical requirements to support and treat those affected.

Mass casualty events can be caused by many things, such as natural disasters, explosions, terrorist attacks and mass shootings. Nearly every event or situation that would see a huge influx of patients with major or fatal injuries, as well as numerous deaths, counts as an MCI.

Naturally, response crews and health professionals are looking for new ways to deal with these kinds of problems, especially since they seem to be evolving.

1. Drones And Smart Surveillance Tech

During a catastrophe, disaster or major event that spans a huge area, it can be difficult for response teams to properly assess the situation and locate potential survivors. Major floods and other natural disasters, for example, often destroy entire communities.

Disaster recovery teams have begun using aerial surveillance technologies like drones to survey areas, find survivors and react. At the very least, the devices can be used to assess nearby surroundings and formulate an action plan. Perhaps one of the best features is that they can be controlled remotely through mobile devices and proprietary remotes.

Loughborough University in the United Kingdom has even outfitted drones — during a project called the TOXI-Triage field trial — with radiological and poison cloud monitoring systems.

2. Intelligent Patient Monitoring

Another problem that arises during mass casualty events and major emergencies stems simply from the sheer number of potential patients. Medical professionals and response crews must check the vitals and monitor important health details of everyone involved. When there are hundreds of patients spread out across a facility or area, it can be difficult to manage everyone, especially on a priority basis.

There are conventional hospital machines to check patient vitals — but a low-cost and more intelligent alternative could be just the solution to save lives. Dubbed VitalTag, the system employs a bevy of sensors to monitor things like heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, blood oxygen levels, shock index and much more. This information can then be monitored automatically with readings and real-time alerts going out to the necessary professionals.

IoT and wearable technologies like VitalTag can improve patient monitoring. They allow professionals and responders to accurately assign priority to the people who need it most without endangering everyone else.

3. Intelligent Triage

Alongside monitoring patient vitals, it’s necessary to conduct triage. This is the process of deciding which injuries are more urgent and need immediate care, and which can wait — especially in the face of limited supplies.

There are four different categories of triage labels, all denoted by a color system. Red tags are reserved for immediate medical care, yellow tags are severe yet capable of waiting, green tags indicate minimal injuries that are not life-threatening and black tags are used for patients who are already deceased or will be soon. Understanding the various classifications and properly identifying patients is vital to keeping many alive.

Coupled with vital and smart health monitoring tools, an AI or automated system can help classify patients in a time of need. This would take some of the pressure off responders and healthcare providers, while also ensuring that patients receive the right amount of care.

4. Proper Training And Stress Testing

During major events, both EMTs and dedicated EMS teams collaborate to maximize efficiency and coverage. However, MCIs are incredibly stressful and unique experiences that are incredibly difficult to train and plan for. No event or incident is ever the same, nor are the conditions and resulting patient demands. However, medical professionals and service teams can better prepare with the help of augmented and virtual reality solutions.

Israel’s national EMS organization Magen David Adom has begun leveraging VR technologies to help simulate MCIs for its personnel. The systems allow responders to practice a variety of scenarios, including determining what to do upon arrival, conducting patient assessments, and rescuing trapped or barricaded patients.

The result is a response team that is much more qualified to participate during real-world events. It’s something all similar response crews and emergency teams should be looking into, especially since preparedness alone can help save so many lives.

5. Modular On-Site Shelters

During natural disasters and emergency events, first responders must work with the resources they have available on-site. That can make working conditions and opportunities much more limited in scope depending on where the field truly is. Modular and functional on-site shelters can be temporarily constructed to give crews a sterile and efficient environment to work in. Many of these shelters can be built using state-of-the-art materials that are durable and quick to assemble.

6. 3D Printers For Universal Support

3D printers or additive manufacturing systems are more commonly used to print ABS hard plastic goods, but they can actually employ a variety of materials, from wood to concrete to synthetic skin. During major events, these technologies could provide a ton of support. They can print tools and support items, prosthetics or casts, or even replacement organs in some cases.

They are highly portable, perfect for MCI-type conditions and support a wide range of possibilities.

Tech To The Rescue

Although no one ever wants to deal with a mass casualty event, this technology can help improve outcomes for everyone involved.

About The Author

Kayla Matthews is a MedTech writer whose work has appeared on HIT Consultant, Medical Economics and HITECH Answers, among other industry publications. To read more from Kayla, please connect with her on LinkedIn, or visit her personal tech blog at