NEW YORK – Israel’s national emergency service Magen David Adom showcased its technological innovations at the organization’s annual New York fund-raising gala on Monday night, including a smartphone app aimed at increasing the overall efficiency of the group’s emergency response.
Among its features, the “My MADA” app allows users to summon and track the emergency service with one touch, provides precise geolocation to emergency medical technicians, enables users to contact MDA via text messages instead of calling and offers the option to send live video of the scene of an emergency to MDA dispatchers.
In addition, “My MADA” allows users to upload their or their family members’ medical information, including pre-existing medical conditions and the medicines each one takes. The medical information is kept confidential from MDA until the user summons it through the app.
“There are a lot of details that we need when we receive the emergency call. The application helps us help you as a citizen, so you can get a faster response with the right resources,” MDA’s chief information officer, Ido Rosenblat, told The Jerusalem Post in New York. “All emergency services want to be as fast as possible.”
Rosenblat, who works to advance technological innovation and partnerships within MDA, explained that the app’s features can each prove to be significantly helpful in all situations.
The precise geolocation feature, for example, allows the medics handling the call to know immediately where the caller is, an important consideration when the person in need is unsure where they are, disoriented or when the caller is a tourist unfamiliar with the area.
The ability to provide MDA with a live video feed of the scene, the organization explains, enables MDA personnel to provide lifesaving instructions to the caller but also make medical decisions based on what they see about the priority level of the incident, thus making the dispatching process more efficient.
“Today, everybody can see everything: you can send me a picture through Whatsapp, or do a video call,” Rosenblat said. “But unfortunately in our world, in the emergency dispatch centers all over the world, the call takers, the operators, they are blind. They work only with their hearing sense and the ability to talk and to ask the right questions.”
“Magen David Adom is the first emergency organization in the world that has the ability to see the patient, to see the scene and not to be blind anymore,” he added.
On a personal level, Rosenblat told the Post that such technology could have helped his grandmother, who passed away two years ago.
“My grandmother was very sick in the last two years of her life,” he said. “She had a caretaker and every time she needed an ambulance, she called my cellphone and told me, ‘Safta doesn’t feel good, we need an ambulance.’” “I told her to call 101, [and] that she was wasting time,” he continued. “I put pieces of paper all over the house, on the fridge, in the bedroom and so on, with the number 101, but she always called me to tell me ‘Safta needs an ambulance.’ Now, with the application, you can add Safta’s address and all of her medical history, so that when we get to the scene for such a person, we don’t need to trust the caretaker.”
Technology, Rosenblat told the Post, is one of Magen David Adom’s main priorities. The organization has some 35 in-house developers working for that purpose and also collaborates with at least 10 different start-ups. Among them is Reporty, an app created by an Israeli developer now based in New York, Amir Elichai.
Reporty, which operates very similarly to MDA’s app and has many of the same features, is connected not just to the existing MDA system but also to the police and fire departments in Israel and abroad, including in the United States. The goal, Elichai explained, is to concentrate all the relevant entities in one single application.
The idea to launch Reporty came to Elichai after he was robbed on the beach in Israel. As he called the police, he struggled to give the dispatcher on the other end of the call his exact location.
“They wanted an address, they wanted a location but you are on the beach and there is no address, there is no exact location. How can I describe where I am exactly?” he said.
When Elichai presented the concept of Reporty to MDA some three years ago, the group immediately showed its support and cooperation, he said.
“Since I met them, I realized that if MDA supports it, it would for sure be good for the world, as they are considered to be one of the most advanced first responders in terms of technology,” he told the Post.
The Reporty app, Elichai pointed out, was used to call firefighters during the recent arson fires in the Haifa region in Israel.
Magen David Adom raised some $2.2 million at Monday night’s gala, which was organized by the American Friends of MDA and included the participation of Israel’s Consul-General in New York, Dani Dayan, as well as former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, a long-time supporter of the organization, among other Jewish leaders and celebrities.
The event began with a reception displaying MDA’s Medicycles, built to navigate difficult terrain and weave through congested streets and highways, as well as a reconstitution of MDA’s command and control center, connected to the live, real-time system in Israel.