PEORIA, Ill. — Stepping up to the call in the air “Is there a doctor on board?” can quickly overwhelm even experienced physicians confronted by unfamiliar conditions in even more unfamiliar surroundings, but a Peoria doctor has developed an app to help.
Dr. Ray Bertino, an interventional radiologist, helped develop airRx after his own experience with in-flight emergencies — both as a doctor responding to a call and as a patient in need of care — made it clear most doctors are ill-equipped to handle these out-of-the-norm situations.
“I’ve kind of seen it from both ends, and there’s really no tools out there to help the physician who’s helping a person on a plane,” Bertino said.
In addition to being outside of their scope of practice, physicians in the air usually won’t have any idea what kind of tools or medications are on board, how to interact with the pilot and airline staff, what legal issues might apply to their situation or how decisions should be made whether to divert a flight to seek more formal medical attention on the ground.
“The truth of the matter is you may have an urologist taking care of a seizure patient or a pediatrician taking care of somebody with chest pains, and they are going to feel quite uncomfortable going into the situation for several reasons,” Bertino said.
While all doctors will receive some of the basic level medical training, most will concentrate on a certain area during practice, and might be long removed from that basic education.
“I’m in radiology, but I have a lot of experience. I may not know what to do to deliver a baby or I may question about what I should be doing with somebody with a seizure,” he said, “but if somebody gives me a cookbook and tells me things to do then it becomes pretty easy, especially given the fact that in the air there’s limited things you can do.”
AirRx, which hit the Apple App Store May 17 and followed on Android a few weeks later, features bulleted lists for how to evaluate and treat 23 of the most common medical emergencies that occur in flight ranging from cuts and headaches to cardiac arrest, strokes and baby delivery, even what to do if someone dies on board a plane.
It’s already been used twice in air, says Bertino, by two of the 20-something doctors that helped test the app during development.
The goal of the app, developed by Peoria-based CSE Software with input from doctors like Bertino and Melissa Mattison at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, was to provide useful information quickly in a way that is easy to access and understand. The application is downloaded once for a cost of $5.99 then all the information is stored on the phone so the app can be accessed in full while the device is in airplane mode.
It also contains more than just medical information. airRx features a “Medical Legal” section that addresses concerns many doctors have about liability, citing the U.S. Good Samaritan Act that offers protection as well as the fact that to developers knowledge, no individual physician has been successfully sued anywhere in the world for care delivered to a traveler. It provides background information on the flight crew and ground support and the kind of help they can provide.
Source: (Peoria) Journal Star, http://bit.ly/2bAvsUO
Information from: Journal Star, http://pjstar.com
This is an AP-Illinois Exchange story offered by the (Peoria) Journal Star.