in Aerospace

Smart device set to revolutionise in-flight medical events

Posted 2 March 2020 · Add Comment

MIME Technologies, a med-tech spin-out from the University of Aberdeen, has unveiled a smart device set to revolutionise how medical events are managed in the air, with the potential to benefit the many thousands of travellers who fall ill on flights annually whilst saving the airline industry millions each year by avoiding unnecessary diversions.

Above: Dr Alasdair Mort from MIME Technologies simulates an emergency.
Images courtesy MIME Technologies

Medical events in-flight are an increasing challenge for both passengers and airlines as the population ages and more people fly with long-term health conditions.

In a single year, flight diversions for medical reasons can reach 60 flights for just one major airline, costing between £38,500 - £464,000 per diverted flight. Four billion people currently travel by plane annually, a figure expected to rise to 8.2 billion in 2037 (Source: International Air Transport Association). 

Now, a multi-disciplinary team of physiologists, technologists and aviation medicine specialists have created a new wireless technology, named ‘Aiber’, that provides fast and accurate support to cabin crew, pilots and clinicians on the ground.

Allowing more informed decisions, it is applicable for a wide range of medical events, ranging from burns and allergic reactions to potential heart attacks in the skies.

Cabin crew are responsible for passenger care in-flight and receive detailed and specific first aid training, refreshed annually. While some airlines can call on clinical ‘on the ground’ support, this is not mandatory for all flights. Calling the ground can also be difficult, requiring the crew to leave the patient’s side to use the on-board phone or existing headphone technology, which is prone to serious challenges like noise interference.

Aiber is the first technology capable of ‘live’ streaming a wide range of passenger data to the ground, allowing real-time digital communication between the crew, the passenger and clinical support.

Anne Roberts, co-founder & chief executive officer of MIME Technologies, explained: “An in-flight medical event, even of a minor nature, can be hugely stressful for cabin crew. Our affordable technology guides them through their first aid training but, crucially, it live streams medical event updates to the ground.

“This is hugely significant as it allows a more informed decision about how stable a passenger is and whether the flight should divert or continue. It allows cabin crew to stay by the passenger’s side throughout and, using AI, it automatically stores and transmits essential information that can often be missed or only recorded after the event.

“For the first time, clinicians on the ground will be able to follow, in real-time, the deterioration or improvement of a passenger in the air using wireless technology and the tech provides a seamless handover to emergency services meeting the aircraft. We believe the technology will help avoid unnecessary diversions but, more significantly, it will help save lives by providing ‘eyes in the sky’ on flights globally.”

Developed with input from two of the world’s leading airlines and suitable for use by commercial airlines and business jets, the technology can integrate wireless, clinical-grade, heart sensing equipment; specifically designed for non-medical professionals like cabin crew.

MIME recently completed field trials with a global aviation company, with multiple commercial and business jet customers in the pipeline.

Dr Tim Stevenson, whose previous experience includes Head of Health Services at Virgin Atlantic Airways, and Company Medical Adviser at easyJet, said: “Medical teams at all airlines are constantly trying to deliver best practice in- flight medical care to any sick passenger in the remote environment that is a plane in the air.

“This could be in the middle of an ocean or over a wide expanse of territory, with few diversion options. Simply flying over the middle of a continent thousands of feet above sea level brings its own medical issues when treating a sick passenger at altitude.

“Aiber helps the crew on board make appropriate, evidence-based decisions. The ability to communicate so efficiently with the ground-based medical support teams, who can advise on particular avenues of treatment or indeed appropriate diversion options for the best possible treatment, is priceless.

“Enabling crew members to communicate seamlessly with the airline operations centres, who can coordinate and facilitate the timely transfer of their sick passenger to advanced medical care, is another incredible benefit.”

Alan Cowan-Moore, Curriculum Head, Travel and Tourism at City of Glasgow College, was a member of cabin crew before going into education. He said: “During my time as cabin crew, I helped resuscitate a passenger who suffered a cardiac arrest. I was anxious about the care I was providing, wondering if my efforts were effective. Fortunately, I had the help of an off-duty doctor, but many don’t.

“Aiber offers a technological solution to support cabin crew in such situations. The potential to reduce the need for diversions, through effective identification of medical conditions, is of enormous benefit for both customers and airlines.

“As an educator, I encourage our students to take a step back and see the bigger picture. Access to this type of expert help has the potential to reduce stressful situations but also result in lifesaving outcomes.”

Founded by Dr. Alasdair Mort and Anne Roberts, MIME Technologies is located in Solasta House on the innovative Inverness Campus. Supported by Highlands & Islands Enterprise, the company was a Scottish EDGE winner in 2017. Additional awards include SCDI’s Excellence in Research & Innovation award. In October 2019, the company received investment led by Equity Gap investors and the Scottish Investment Bank.


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