Carnegie Mellon University
July 24, 2012

Press Release: Carnegie Mellon Researchers Develop Approach To Improve Emergency Medical Services in Developing Countries

Heinz College Faculty Use Data–Driven Solutions To Reduce Response Time

Contact: Ken Walters / 412-268-1151 /

PITTSBURGH—Emergency medical services in emerging economies can be improved by using phone data records and service logs to better allocate and deploy ambulances and emergency medical personnel, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s iLab, a research center in the H. John Heinz III College. By analyzing phone data of where and when calls for emergency services arise, and service logs that capture details about the nature of the service and how quickly it was offered, the researchers found that emergency services can be improved significantly.

“This is an excellent example of using simulation and optimization model-based data analytics to solve societal scale problems,” said iLab researcher Ramayya Krishnan, who also is dean of the Heinz College. “This approach holds great promise not only for EMS providers, but also for disaster response, humanitarian service logistics and other emergency situations in any country.”

Krishnan and iLab researchers Lavanya Marla and Yisong Yue used call and service logs from an emergency services provider in a large Asian city that captured location (urban, rural or tribal), time stamps, type of emergency, type of service required, ambulances assigned to the calls and the travel times experienced by these ambulances in the city. The researchers found that their methods for dynamically redeploying ambulances based on data analytics helped significantly reduce the response time to an emergency, while also decreasing the number of calls not serviced by nearly 50 percent.

“We wanted to develop techniques and tools that could be deployed in the field. Combining simulation and optimization techniques and Google map-based visualization tools permit EMS providers to plan deployment as well as to dynamically redeploy their ambulances as needed,” Krishnan said. “The ubiquity of cell phones, and the decreasing costs of technologies such as GPS systems for vehicles and instrumentation to record service logs makes it possible for providers to be better prepared to meet emergency needs, despite the infrastructure challenges they face.”

The study was done through the Mobility Analytics thrust of the Heinz College’s iLab. Krishnan added that the research findings might be useful in other application contexts such as those being studied by CMU’s Traffic 21 program, which works to design and deploy safer and more economic transportation solutions, and the University Transportation Center, a collaborative effort between CMU and the University of Pennsylvania that will explore cutting-edge technologies that could influence everything from vehicle safety to traffic flow analysis.