An ambulance with full IT equipment serves as a rolling test bed, where ambulance care, research and industry meet to develop and jointly try out technology and simulate work processes. Tools such as video conferencing and digital decision support enable mobile and efficient emergency care, says communication officer Yvonne Jonsson in her article at Chalmers.
Health care of today is approaching a necessary digitalisation process. As part of the transition, a full-scale test ambulance equipped with various IT solutions and camera technology is used as a test environment for several research projects in prehospital care, with researchers from Chalmers University of Technology, University of Borås, Sahlgrenska Hospital and Sahlgrenska Academy.
An ambulance is more than just a vehicle for transporting patients. If the right treatment is initiated already on the way to the hospital, this may be crucial for the patient and have effect on the entire subsequent care chain. Significantly more than half of the most serious medical conditions, such as acute myocardial infarction, stroke, trauma and sepsis, are first treated by paramedical personnel. These groups comprise over 100,000 patients per year in Sweden with a mortality rate of over 20%.
The ambulance is an extra vehicle in Sahlgrenska University Hospital’s regular ambulance fleet. It will soon be connected to the IT environment of Region Västra Götaland, which will make it possible, for example, to live stream video directly from the ambulance to a hospital. Specialists can then support the paramedical staff with remote counselling, while patient data and other relevant information can be transmitted and shared.
“We will be able to perform full-scale, realistic simulations from the alarm to the delivery, using digital communication to hospital experts and systems”, says Bengt Arne Sjöqvist. “In addition, the researchers have a parallel IT environment of their own when necessary for development and testing. During the simulations, fictitious patient records can be used, but in case of an actual emergency the personnel will have access to the patient’s medical records directly in the ambulance.”
Designing solutions based on mobile communication poses certain challenges. If the technology or the connection for some reason does not work, which occasionally will happen, a backup plan should always be prepared.
In order to analyse how the technology and the work processes function together, additional cameras will be installed in the test ambulance. Unlike the other cameras, these cameras do not have the task of documenting the patient’s condition but instead record how the ambulance team uses the digital decision support and other technical aids.
“It is clear to me that the technology that we are currently testing in the test ambulance can be useful for many more stakeholders in mobile healthcare, both for emergency conditions and for care at home”, says Bengt Arne Sjöqvist. “In the end, the heart of the matter is making optimal use of the limited resources of healthcare, to ensure that patients receive the right care at the right time.”
Text: Yvonne Jonsson, Chalmers
Photo: Henrik Sandsjö, Chalmers