Data terminals for new ambulances are a ‘life or death’ business

2 Jul 2009

Ambulance provider Lifeline is to kit out its ambulances in Ireland with data displays that will replace two-way radios and ensure that all communications and actions during call-outs are logged and monitored.

Lifeline Ambulances has taken delivery of the fixed data terminals (FDTs) for all ambulances and vehicles from technology provider Minor Planet.

Lifeline Ambulance Services, headquartered in Leixlip, Co Kildare, and with stations in Tullamore, Galway and Wexford, is the State’s largest private ambulance service, transporting over 25,000 patients annually.

The company employs 96 people, has a turnover €7m and a fleet of 55 vehicles including ambulances, mini buses and cars.

As this is a ‘life or death’ business, the new communications system has been on trial in one ambulance for the past few weeks.

Traditionally, all patients details were dispatched from the control centre to the ambulance driver over a two-way radio; this is the system that is currently used by all ambulances in Ireland.

However, this system can lead to confusion, issues with patient confidentiality and lack of information tracking.

Kitting out Lifeline Ambulances with FDTs now means the driver will have information emailed directly to him/her via the FDT, which is a 4-inch computer screen that will sit on the dash of the ambulance.

The control centre will email the patient details to the terminal so that information will be recorded accurately. These records can then be downloaded and used as part of a clinical audit.

These units will use a modem (the AEM 6000 tracking unit) and a FDT application that has been specifically tailored for ambulance use on behalf of Lifeline. The company has a 60-month lease/rental agreement on these units.

Lifeline also has vehicle-tracking devices in all of its ambulances, cars, jeeps. This allows the control centre to track each vehicle at any time.

Tracking is more accurate with the FDTs – the full story can be assessed including the patient issue, the vehicle location, how long it stayed at a home or hospital, the speed, etc.

In 2005, Lifeline took the lead among European ambulance providers in deploying an innovative decontamination system to help prevent the spread of MRSA and other infections among patients and paramedics travelling in its ambulances.

This infection-fighting technology is designed specifically to decontaminate ambulances and vehicles. The decontamination system also reduces the risk of patients carried in the ambulance transmitting infections from facility to facility or drivers/paramedics spreading MRSA to family and friends.

The use of this system follows news that MRSA may be costing the Irish healthcare system as much as €150m annually.

By John Kennedy