A Symbiosis of Technology and Nature
Have you ever been hiking and worried about being bitten by a poisonous snake? We make an antidote to the venom of the North American pit viper (rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths/water moccasins.) There are around 8,000 bites a year in the U.S., and not all are wilderness enthusiasts hiking in wilderness areas – some of our patients are children who were playing in their front yards.
Being bitten by one of these snakes is a serious medical emergency, and the response of emergency medical services, and the overall time to treatment is critical to saving as much affected tissue as possible. Unfortunately, no one ever expects to be bitten by a poisonous snake, and when you are bitten, you probably aren’t carrying around a wilderness guide to tell you what to do. We knew there was more we could do to help bite victims be treated as quickly and as effectively as possible, and that First Responders and Emergency medicine physicians needed to have critical information on this rare event at their fingertips.
This is exactly why we designed and launched a suite of three apps called Snakebite911. We wanted to equip the bite victim, the first responder, and the doctor at the receiving emergency room with timely and accurate information on what to do (and not do), where the nearest hospital is and how to get there, and how to track envenomation to get the best result from treatment. All of these apps have common features, like a tutorial on how to use the app and drug prescribing and safety information, but we customized the features and feel of each app to the targeted audience.
The first app, designed for the general public, is Snakebite911, and is geared for people who enjoy outdoor activities such as golf, hiking, camping, gardening, fishing; and parents who want to know more about snake safety should a child get bitten in the backyard or at summer or Scout camps, for example. The app helps educate consumers about snakes and hot to avoid them, prepare in the event a snake strikes, advise what to do and what not to do (don’t make a tourniquet, and don’t try to “bleed out” the bite!) and provide ease of access to emergency services and treatment at nearest possible hospital. Features include quick dial to 911; a hospital finder for Emergency Rooms proficient in antivenom treatment, pictures and descriptions of North American pit vipers, and advice on staying “snake safe.” The two most innovative features on the app are a “Snake Sighting” button to share snake sightings and location for others to avoid, and a venom tracker photo tool with timer. The venom tracker prompts the bite victim or companion to take a picture of the bite at designated intervals; this information is helpful to First responders and Emergency physicians to determine the rate of envenomation and treat appropriately.
The second app, Snakebite911 FR (First Responder), is used by paramedics and other emergency services first on the scene to help them treat the patient at the site and on a moving ambulance. At this point, appropriate victim management can make the difference between full recovery and lost limbs. This app contains much of the same information as the consumer version, but includes a checklist of actions to ensure the victim is appropriately managed from pick up to ER. Features include a hospital finder for Emergency Rooms fully versed in snakebite management, pre-treatment steps including what *not* to do, and a venom tracker photo tool to capture the progress of envenomation.
The third app in the suite, Snakebite911 ER (Emergency Room), was created for doctors and nurses in the Emergency Room. The app walks a clinician – who may be treating their first snakebite - through a user-friendly treatment algorithm, with best practices for the correct administration and dosing of the antivenom, and then instructions on post-discharge care. Features in the app include quick dial access to the Poison Control Center helpline, reference to prescribing and safety information, and a brief tutorial.
After launching the app on both iOS and Android in time for the 2016 “bite season,” we have seen over 7000 unique downloads. Our marketing and communications campaign around launch was targeted to the specific audience for each app. For example, for the consumer version, we worked with a digital marketing agency called DuoPR to build key partnerships with outdoors and wilderness organizations like Boys and Girls Scouts of America, outfitters like REI and Cabela’s, and viral opportunities like Facebook and other social media. For the FR and ER versions, we made use of our clinical relationships with snakebite experts and Poison Control Center authorities, as well as with BeyondLucid, a firm that maps the complex and highly localized world of emergency medical services.
While it’s difficult to determine the impact of the apps, we believe that greater education around snake safety, as well as the tools for understanding what to do and how to treat pit viper bites, can only help consumers avoid being bitten, and, if they are, can help them get timely and effective treatment for best outcomes. We’re proud of the apps and grateful to our partners in helping us make everyone “snake aware!”