German airline Lufthansa has become the first airline in the world to equip all of its long-haul aircraft with CardioSecur, a mobile electrocardiogram (ECG) system. Should an emergency take place on board one of its aircraft, flight attendants who may not have extensive medical expertise will be able to record an ECG for the passenger in question and transmit the results to parties on the ground.
“The health of our passengers is very close to our hearts,” said Dr Sven-Karsten Peters, a cardiologist with Lufthansa Medical Service, “especially when they are feeling unwell on board, they should know that they are in good hands. The results of the resting ECG conducted directly onboard the aircraft provide a better basis for deciding whether it is necessary to divert a plane in order to provide medical care on the ground in case of medical emergencies.”
According to Lufthansa, cardiovascular complaints are the most common medical incident to occur on board a flight, so equipping all aircraft with an ECG is a sensible step.
Additionally, Lufthansa currently operates a ‘Doctor On Board’ programme – also used by Austrian Airlines and SWISS – which enables cabin crew to quickly identify any doctor who may be on a flight in the event of a medical emergency, ascertain their specialities and, if necessary, enlist their help. Building on this, the airline is now offering a medical travel assistance service, the first European airline to do so; passengers will have the opportunity to book a nurse, doctor or paramedic to care for them throughout their flight, depending on their specific medical needs.
While the vast majority of flights go without a hitch, emergencies do happen, and thousands of feet in the air with – if you’re lucky – very few medically-trained personnel available is not an ideal location for one to take place. Anxious passengers will no doubt be reassured to know that their airline is taking extra pre-emptive steps to deal with such emergencies, and it will be interesting to see if other airlines move to follow Lufthansa’s example. After all, customers are becoming choosier about their service providers, and level of medical care could potentially grow to be a deciding factor in whether a passenger opts for Airline A or Airline B.