Medical & Emergency Tech: San Diego

San Diego's medical-tech innovations include making defibrillators as common as fire extinguishers

If you're going to have a heart attack, you don't want to do it while surfing
off a remote beach with no road access. "My chances of survival were 1,000 to 1," says Steven Ludwig. So how was it that by dinnertime that day last August, Ludwig, 53, was watching an account of his own rescue on the six o'clock news? The answer: Ludwig was in San Diego, whose medical-tech innovations include making defibrillators as
common as fire extinguishers; a nearby rescue boat had just been equipped with one.

In San Diego, 911 calls enter a GPS-equipped system that can immediately mobilize any of the city's 125 fire engines, ambulances, rescue boats and helicopters. And because rescue vehicles carry Wi-Fi-enabled laptops and PDAs, medics documenting patient vitals and any procedures administered beam the data straight to the hospital, where doctors seamlessly pick up the case. At many local hospitals, patient charts, including data from heart-rate and oxygen monitors, are also electronic. The newscast of Ludwig's rescue showed a brave paramedic lowered from a helicopter to whisk him away. But behind the scenes, a carefully orchestrated system of protocols and technologies--and people aided by them--were the unseen heroes.

THE NUMBERS

Overall rank: 5
Number of hospitals and health care providers with advanced information technology: 14
Percent of emergency vehicles under computer-aided dispatch: 100
Percent of emergency vehicles that are GPS-equipped: 46

MEDICAL & EMERGENCY TECH: RUNNERS-UP

2. Spokane, WA
3. Oklahoma City, OK
4. Kansas City, MO
5. Chicago, IL
6. Burlington, VT
7. Des moines, IA
8. Seattle, WA
9. Lansing, MI
10. Indianapolis, IN