Magen David Adom (MDA) began as a volunteer association, with its first official station opening in Tel Aviv in 1930. Since then, there have been many landmarks along the history of what has become one of the world’s most recognized emergency medical services and Israel’s largest volunteer organization

Josh Bloom
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Command and Control systems at the MDA National Dispatch Center
Josh Bloom
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Ever since its earliest days, MDA has provided care to all those in need, irrespective of their background, religion, race or gender. In 1946, it began operating what would become Israel’s National Blood Bank, collecting, processing and providing almost all of Israel’s blood supplies during times of both peace and war. Magen David Adom continues to grow, and today totals 2,200 employees and, amazingly, over 22,000 volunteers who donate well over one and a half million hours of their time every year, making it Israel’s largest volunteer organization.

Training 100,000 people a year

The State of Israel gained independence in 1948, and two years later the MDA Law was passed by the Knesset, providing MDA with the title of the National EMS and Blood Services provider, as well as being the local Red Cross Society. Since then, MDA has provided not only EMS and blood services, but also education to many cross-sections of society – including youth volunteers who, at 15, take courses in basic life support and volunteer on the ambulances through EMT and Paramedic courses, and all those who participate in courses for the general public and advanced courses for medical professionals. Each year, there are approximately 6,000 courses, with over 100,000 people being taught by MDA instructors.

The first Paramedic Course was run in 1980, when the world of EMS was growing exponentially, both in terms of numbers, medical knowledge and skill, and MDA began making large strides away from being merely an emergency transport system to becoming a system of professional pre-hospital care providers. Since then, almost 3,000 paramedics have been trained, and today, some 400 paramedics qualify annually via the various courses held by MDA. These include National Service courses, the military, combined degrees with nursing, and direct intake courses within MDA.

In 2006, after many years of waiting, Magen David Adom was finally admitted as a full member of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (ICRC). MDA is recognized for its humanitarian aid across the world, having attended scenes of natural disasters and major terror attacks in such countries as Haiti, Nepal, Turkey, the US and many others. MDA brought with it not only medical assistance, but also expertise in mass-casualty incidents. Indeed, MDA has developed advanced management and treatment protocols that are now recognized and taught around the globe.

Magen David Adom is a national, statutory non-governmental organization. Although it is not funded by the government, it is supervised by the Ministry of Health and has a fleet of over 1,000 ambulances, including both BLS and advanced Mobile Intensive Care Units, in addition to over 500 Medi-cycles, electric bicycles, Mini Electric Response Vehicles (MERVs), 4x4 vehicles, two helicopters and even a Jet-ski that is used on the Sea of Galilee to help reach patients on all shores as rapidly as possible. They are stationed across the country at over 165 stations, with topography that varies from Red Sea resorts to mountainous regions and even a desert. It all makes for a very diverse ambulance service – the patients, the equipment, the geography, transport distances, and even the medical conditions can vary by location. Regardless of where you may be in Israel or in crises around the world, professional MDA EMTs, Paramedics and First Responders of all types will be ready to help you in your hour of need.

Fast and effective

The EMS pre-hospital Command and Control system is designed to shorten response times and document the details of the event, from the initial response to when the medical data is sent to the hospital. This process includes documenting the medical treatment provided and effectively managing EMS resources.

Magen David Adom in Israel’s Command and Control system incorporates the needs of the citizens calling for assistance and the existing resources available in a fully automated and efficient artificial intelligence system. This system enables the activating of community volunteers, professional first responders, ambulances and Mobile Intensive Care Units.

Reducing response times is a significant challenge that all EMS systems face. The public expects to receive the most professional and rapid response. In order to facilitate this, a number of factors must be taken into account, such as the time taken to answer the emergency call, the time taken to perform the initial over-the-phone triage by the emergency call handler, deciding the urgency of the call, and assigning the responding medical teams while transmitting relevant information. The average time taken to answer an emergency call is 3.5 seconds and the caller’s location is received simultaneously by GPS and GIS systems. The system automatically chooses the closest free emergency call handler and passes the call on to them.

All of the Magen David Adom emergency call handlers and dispatchers are EMTs or Paramedics with field experience. This is proven to reduce the time taken to diagnose by 22%, assign the most relevant team for the situation, and start providing first aid instructions over the phone, unlike call handlers who are not EMTs or Paramedics.

The Command and Control system allows the receiving of photos or live videos directly from the scene via designated free applications such as WhatsApp or MyMDA, developed in-house. These visuals contribute to the immediate diagnosis by the call handler and also efficiently deploy resources to serious incidents. The efficiency of the over-the-phone-communication and first aid instruction is greater when the call handler is able to view the scene and provide live feedback of the bystander’s treatment.

Using the free MyMDA application, the patient’s medical history, including known illnesses, allergies, prescribed medications, previous ECGs and medical documents, can be automatically sent to the responding teams.

The Magen David Adom EMS response system consists of many layers of various response units nationwide, which are dispatched by the MDA Teams Application based on the responders’ GPS locations and proximities to the scene. These layers consist of 17,000 Community Life Guardians and 7,500 Professional First Responders who respond via their personal cars, electric bicycles, on foot, on one of 507 MDA Emergency Medi-cycles, or by using off-duty ambulances.

The volunteers located closest to the incident arrive within minutes and begin providing life-saving treatment until the ambulance arrives. These minutes can prove to be critical, and the automatic dispatch improves the patient’s chance of surviving in these situations. In addition, the system automatically assigns the closest applicable ambulance and sends details to all of the crew members assigned to that ambulance. The Command and Control system automatically activates the closest ambulance/MICU according to its location, regardless of regional affiliation.

Automatic dispatching is especially effective during peak times and challenging operations. A study conducted to examine the effectiveness of the system found that all of the calls received the appropriate response, even during peak times. Arrival times are reduced due to automatic locating and dispatching speed. The system also reduces potential human error, such as dispatching ambulances located further away. The patients’ medical data and current status is securely sent to the most relevant attending specialists (trauma unit, cardiologists and neurologists) of the receiving hospital, which shortens the time by 30% until the patient receives definitive treatment from the most relevant hospital unit. The ability to locate every MDA lifesaving vehicle online and remotely operate their dashboard cameras enables them to swiftly view and understand the complexity of the scene.

In a field where every second counts, Magen David Adom is proud of their EMS Command and Control system. The system undoubtedly reduces emergency response time and improves the speed in which the patient receives the ultimate treatment.

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