Connected AED Machines

What are “Connected AED Machines” and what features do they offer?

As consumer electronics continue to advance in technical sophistication, we’re often left to wonder, why not AEDs? After all, they’re a truly life-and-death piece of medical equipment.

NOT connecting AEDs creates a lot of challenges.

As of April 2020, Physio Control’s CR 2 AED is the only FDA-approved connected AED machine. The ZOLL AED 3 is still under review. The HeartSine 350P has an add-on module that helps connect the AED, but the technology isn’t built into the product.

Today’s connected AED machines send readiness status information from the device to a cloud server. Readiness info, such as whether the unit passed or failed a self-test, can be vital to ensuring AED programs are well-run and ready to save lives.

Alerts can also be sent through the “connected” feature to alert when electrode pads fail or become expired and when batteries start to run low.

The catch-22 of a connected product is that obtaining data from an AED to the cloud (either by wifi or cellular connection) requires extra data and it also drains power. The CR2 and AED 3 use the same battery for life-saving energy as they do for connection to the cloud, which isn’t optimal. The HeartSine Gateway uses a separate battery for the connection features.

Whereas non-connected AED units have to be manually checked, their modern brethren offer an exciting look at what the future holds.

How much do connected AEDs cost?

Currently, the connected AEDs are some of the more expensive AEDs on the market, even if you’re not using the “connected” features. Silly.

Another thing AED buyers should watch out for is how much the connection fees cost and what these fees might do to the AED’s total cost of ownership.

Other items to watch out for:

Learn how often the AED “checks-in” with the server. Do you get instant readiness checks, daily, monthly?

What happens if you have a connected AED that uses wifi and you take it out of the network’s range? Does it default to cellular?

If you use your AED, does that data get sent automatically to the cloud for use and access by the overseeing MD?

The Right Location for AEDs

As an AED industry, we often cite the lack of enough portable defibrillators to make a meaningful impact on survival rates from sudden cardiac arrest. Some claim that “by just adding more units, we’ll save so many more lives!”

Increasingly, I’m not convinced that’s the whole story.

While estimates vary wildly, most experts agree that there are about 3.5 to 4 million AED units in the United States. Each year, the industry adds at least another 200,000 new units to the country’s pool of life-saving devices.

If adding more AEDs alone will save more lives, survival rates should proportionally increase with each new unit deployed. Or, even if they don’t “proportionally increase,” they should go up, even a little bit, right?

So, what do the data say?

Survival rates have been flat for decades.

We know defibrillation works. And, we know that the time to defibrillation is the most vital input into the life-saving equation. So why isn’t deploying hundreds of thousands of new AEDs each year moving the needle on rates of survival in the United States?

There are several reasons.

The vast majority of AED sales are made to businesses and government agencies, a diverse market including everything from small businesses, like fitness clubs, to Fortune 50 retailers. Deploying AEDs in these markets is great, and there are a lot of reported saves in these environments each year. Cardiac arrest takes the lives of 10,000 people in the workplace each year.

Assuming a 5-minute response window should yield a 50% probability of surviving cardiac arrest. 

If all of these people received defibrillation within 5 minutes, we’d save 5000 more people each year. 5,000 people is a huge number! That’s equivalent to saving every single person who died of a fire last year. That’s 5,000 sets of friends and families.

But, given the magnitude of how many people die of cardiac arrest, saving 5,000 additional people would improve our national survival rates by 1.4%. 

Again, if applied an AED to 100% of people who die of SCA in the workplace, we’d increase our national average from about 10% to just over 11%.

Thus, the vast majority of AED sales are going to the wrong place.

AEDs are also sold to nursing homes and those responsible for “public places,” where 11% and 18% of cardiac arrests occur, respectively. AED sales to these locations are backed by strong data and the impact these sales make is meaningful. We can use more AEDs in these types of locations.

Where do the rest of sudden cardiac deaths occur? The vast majority, 70%, of those who die?

The home.

Until AED units are sold into the home, the United States isn’t going to see a measurable increase in survival rates.

Don’t get me wrong, there is little downside to deploying more AED units in communities. But, if the lay public were to ask if we’re doing so in the most effective way possible, backed by strong data, I fear the answer would be “no.”

AED Total Cost of Ownership

Determining an AED’s “total cost of ownership” is one of the most important calculations a buyer can analyze prior to selecting and buying a new defibrillator.

The total cost of ownership is the AED unit purchase price + future batteries, electrode pads, and other supplies that might be required over a given timeframe.

But, let’s face it, it seems like every AED manufacturer can shape the story as to how their AED’s total cost of ownership is the best, er, lowest. HOW CAN THAT BE?!

Here’s how: the AED manufacturers pick and choose their analysis timeframe. For example:

  • In a one-year window, a low priced AED, like the Philips OnSite might look great – because nothing needs to be replaced, but
  • In a four-year window, the OnSite needs new pads and new batteries, but the ZOLL doesn’t so it looks good. Then,
  • At year five, the ZOLL AED Plus needs an expensive new electrode pad, so another AED looks good again…on and on. You get the point.

So, how can a buyer get rid of the nuance and just learn the facts?

Well, fortunately, we’ve created a website widget that lets you decide how you want to analyze the data.

  1. Chose the timeframe you’d like to analyze (in years)
  2. Choose the AEDs you’d like to compare.
  3. Review the data! Boom. That’s it!

Happy comparing. We hope this tool is useful in understanding and calculating the true total cost of ownership in whatever window of time is best for you.