A Media Buy That Could Make Your Heart Stop -- And Start Again

A manufacturer of lifesaving medical equipment is entering the media and advertising world, marking perhaps the greatest convergence of medicine and commercialism since "ER."

Emergency Medical Systems Inc. has announced the launch of EMS-TV, a kiosk-based satellite network that takes the idea of interactive TV to a new level. EMSI's kiosks, besides displaying health-related video content, weather reports, and advertising, will each contain an automated external defibrillator (AED) device and a direct connection to live paramedics.

The kiosks, which are scheduled to go to market in late September, are expected to be placed in pharmacies and schools throughout the nation. Each machine is roughly the size of a small arcade game, featuring a 17-inch LCD screen.

These "EmergencyMedicalStation" machines, which will be funded entirely by advertising dollars, allow for a live connection with paramedics in the event of an emergency, all at the push of a button.

The paramedic can assess the situation via two-way audio/visual communications and, if warranted, provide access to the defibrillator stored within the kiosk. Local EMS sources would be simultaneously alerted.



The machines "will be used much more for slips and falls," said C. Kevin Coonce, president and CEO of EMSI. But the hope is that they will aid in cardiac arrests, of which there are 1,000 a day.

Coonce expects to have 600 machines installed by the end of this year, mostly in the Midwest, where the company is based. By the end of 2005, he projects there will be 11,000 nationwide, though that could accelerate, as EMSI is in serious negotiations with two major pharmaceutical chains.

Advertisers will be able to purchase static slides, 30-second spots, or pretty much whatever they want at the outset. Coonce expects the pharmaceutical category to drive strong business.

Despite the commercial aspect of this project, "there has been nothing you can interpret as a negative reaction," said Coonce.

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