Smartphone Apps and Road Safety / Roadside Emergencies

Introduction

Cellular phones have a significant impact on our ability to request medical and other assistance in the unfortunate event of a road crash. Several entrepreneurs have recognized the benefits that developments in smartphone technology and smartphone apps could have for our road users. 

As an information portal on road safety, the Arrive Alive website would like to share more information on some of these smartphone apps and why we believe every road user with a smartphone should be alerted of these potential life saving developments.

Q&A on Smartphone Apps and Road Safety

We approached Dr Fanie Hattingh, Co-Founder of mySOS, to gain more insights to the development of such an emergency app:

Can you share a brief background on your experience in emergency medical response?

I started my emergency response career in the back of an emergency medical response car in Bloemfontein in early 2001. I was a 5th year medical student at the University of the Free State at the time and didn’t really know anything about ambulance services. 5 Minutes into the first emergency call, at 180km/hour, I was hooked for life and spent almost 10 years in pre-hospital care and emergency medical services, in both public and private sector, across many African countries.

I was fortunate to gain most of my experience in this field whilst working alongside some of the best trained, most dedicated Advanced Life Support Paramedics (ALS) in the world as well as a small group of self trained, volunteer emergency doctors who are now leading emergency medicine across Africa.

I’ve been fortunate to work in all areas of emergency medicine and pre-hospital care (ambulance services), including emergency call centres, emergency care training centres, road-based emergency response, helicopter emergency medical services and aeromedical operations with SAPS, SANDF, NSRI and other volunteer organisations.

Are there a major challenges in emergencies that affect both responders and victims?

One of the biggest challenges in any emergency is access. Access to the right emergency services, with the right skills and equipment, at the right time and at the right place. When someone experience an emergency, they often struggle knowing who to call and where they are exactly. This is a major factor when time is of the essence, as “every second counts” in a life-threatening emergency.

What was the "Eureka" moment that made you decide to focus more energy into an emergency App?

I am an entrepreneur and problem-solver by heart and have always been attracted to complex challenges in healthcare.

In early 2013 I came across a serious medical emergency on the main road in Camps Bay, Cape Town. Even though I knew exactly who to call and where we were, it took nearly 15 minutes for the first ambulance to arrive on scene. I suddenly realised that if I was unable to find the right emergency response with all the information at hand, many other less fortunate people have exactly the same potential problem. In a cardiac arrest, 6 minutes can mean the difference between life and death. I knew we had to solve this problem for everyone!

How much do you believe technology, and especially smartphones, have changed the access to lifesaving information?

Mobile technology is the future and the increased access to smartphones with features such as GPS navigation, tracking and bluetooth equipment integration, creates unlimited opportunities for individuals, emergency services and technology companies to continue to develop and offer life-saving solutions to individuals around the world.

Technology alone will not save lives, but the right technology “tools” will make responders more effective and help to improve outcomes.

Purely from the perspective of a medical  professional, how much value can smartphone technology offer and do you believe we are still scratching the surface of possibility?

We live in the information age and the “Internet of Things” (IoT) will connect “everyone to everything” in the near future. Healthcare information will be generated at an exponential pace and the only way to stay current will be though technology-based access to best practice and current healthcare information via credible health sources from the web.

We are only scratching the surface of something really significant for healthcare.

How important was the mySOS name for you?

Brand identity and “household names” are critical components for many successful businesses. mySOS was something we came up with at a Team meeting, in a “let’s choose a name for this app” session. It just stuck with us and we hope to develop this as a leading brand and solution for access to emergency care for our users.

What do you believe to be the most important requirements / building blocks for an effective lifesaving emergency App?

Simplicity, ease of access, relevance, accuracy, reliability, technology-driven, multi-purpose, integrated and ultimately being available on every user’s homescreen.

How does mySOS manage to offer so many services from a single platform?

mySOS offers a mobile technology portal to link users with their preferred providers. We do not provide services, but assist our clients to link directly with their contracted providers to find you, know who you are, where you are and how to respond.

We have already completed full integration with ER24 and Netcare 911 National Emergency Medical Services Call Centres and can send your emergency information directly to the operator’s screen, whilst you are making the call.

With the rather dismal road fatality numbers in SA, do you believe we need to embrace the benefits of emergency Apps?

Yes, mobile apps can assist with navigation, avoidance of traffic incidents, tracking and journey management to name a few, but apps, sms’s and inappropriate mobile use whilst driving, is a major contributor to road accidents and the benefits should be considered at all times.

Would it be fair to say that the Emergency App you developed covers far more than victims of road crashes?

Yes, mySOS is a portal for “everyday” and “life-threatening” emergencies. We give each user a customised profile for access to their preferred ambulance service, security provider, as well as national access to police, fire services, sea rescue, local emergencies, hospitals, pharmacies, vets and much more. We’ve partnered with MedPages, who support our healthcare database, to ensure we always have the most updated emergency number database in South Africa.

mySOS also offers solutions for Events, Corporates, Security Estates and Emergency Services. We cover morethan 250 outdoor events, such as mountain biking, trail running, cycling, hiking etc and are growing this list on a weekly basis.

How important can these smartphone apps be for the motorist going on holiday?

mySOS is the “emergency angel” for all motorists on holiday. mySOS will assist you to contact medical, rescue, roadside and other emergency services when you are away from home and when you are driving in an unfamiliar part of South Africa.

mySOS is there to help you find and navigate to doctors, clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, vets, embassies, police stations and other related providers anywhere in South Africa, even when on holiday.

There are many different app developers using  much of the same technology available. How important will it be to stay focused, to be unique and to remain "cutting edge"?

Technology is available to everyone. Our team experience makes our offering unique and together with our active operational involvement ensures that we focus on our clients needs and continuously develop additional functionality to solve our clients problems. We are 3 co-founders and each brings a unique skillset and experience in emergency services, technology and business management.

Some of our most recent additions include rider tracking, journey management and the development of our own blue tooth panic buttons, which we are planning to launch in early 2016.

Could mySOS offer value to those traveling outside of SÀ.. And those living elsewhere in Africa or other continents.

Yes, absolutely. Our focus is South Africa for now, but we’ve already tested the platform in a number of other African and other countries. We will scale the platform through strategic partners in other countries and will have country specific databases to ensure relevance and access to services.

The value to the owner of a smartphone may be clear... But what would the value be to the emergency services?

There are many benefits for emergency responders, such as accurate GPS locations to respond to, access to important client information including emergency contacts, medical information, insurance information etc. If you know exactly where an incident is, you can get there faster, everytime.

Do you invite emergency providers to come aboard and offer their expertise and recommendations?

Absolutely, we encourage our partners and clients to provide feedback and suggestions, as this helps us to remain relevant and develop practical functionality and solutions.

What are the most prominent Apps you would recommend for the SA road user to investigate and acquire?

I guess I’ll have to start with mySOS...(www.mysos.co.za). It’s free and available for iPhone and Android devices.

One should also consider apps that connects you to your car insurance provider, for quick access to incident management, accident claims etc, as well as a good Navigation App, even Google or Apple Maps, to ensure you find your destination first time, everytime. For the offroad users, there are a number of 4x4 navigation apps worth considering, where offline navigation capability is essential.

What are some of the issues to consider when using mobile apps?

Technology sometimes fails, like most other things in life. Most common reasons for technology failure include low/no battery power, low/no connectivity, data usage, GPS tracking, bluetooth connected devices, Wifi etc.

What are some of the major successes thus far?

In less than 12 months we have aquired 31 000 active users for mySOS. We’ve been fortunate to be in the top 5 position for medical apps in the App Store for almost 6 months now. mySOS covers more than 250 outdoor events.

We have recently partnered with Boerhinger Ingelheim and launched the National mySOS myStroke Hotline with ER24 as the emergency call centre operator. The myStroke initiative already covers more than 70 private and public hospitals in South Africa.

Have you received testimonials where you are made aware that the App has made a difference and either saved a life or prevented further serious injury!

We receive regular feedback from our users and have helped victims of crime, medical emergencies, mountain rescue as well as outdoor sports events on many occasions.

We want to encourage all South Africans to download this potentially life-saving app. You never know when your loved one needs help…

Any last thoughts on emergencies?

I’ll share 2 lessons…

Acknowledge the brave men and woman who risk their lives for those they do not even know. Teach you family and children to respect the ambulance driver, police officer, fireman and sea rescue volunteer, who they may meet again under different circumstances. They are the real heroes.

We all have the ability to save someone else’s life. Prepare to assist your family and friends, by downloading the mySOS Emergency App, attending a first aid course and educating yourself and your family about the basic steps to follow in an emergency. Everyone can be an “everyday hero”!

Where can our readers download the mySOS app?

Free mySOS Download for Android & iPhone - https://www.mysos.co.za/download.html

Visit us - https://www.mysos.co.za/

Follow us - https://twitter.com/mysoscoza

Share your story - https://www.facebook.com/mysos.co.za

[ A word of appreciation to Dr Fanie Hattingh, Co-Founder, mySOS]

Also View

Celular Technology and Road Safety

Emergency Response Time and Response to Road Crashes

How to respond to an emergency

Roadside Assistance and Road Safety

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