Ambulance staff to use video calling to help treat patients amid coronavirus pandemic

Patients will soon be able to video call ambulance crews as new technology is rolled out during the coronavirus pandemic.

Monday, 20th April 2020, 1:42 pm
Updated Monday, 20th April 2020, 4:17 pm

North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) will be using ‘Attend Anywhere’ software to allow ambulance staff to speak via video link to patients who require advice but may not need an ambulance to attend to them.

After going through the triage system on either NHS111 or 999, patients who need to speak to a clinician may be given a secure link via text message, which will take them through to a video call on their smart phone or tablet.

The technology will enable ambulance staff working in the community to seek advice from clinicians working within the Emergency Operations Centre.

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Going forward, it will then be expanded to the wider health system, including care homes.

The new system is one of 17 projects which NEAS has been working on since being chosen as one of three ambulance services to join the national Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) programme back in 2018.

And it comes at a crucial time during the coronavirus pandemic as ambulance staff work to offer ways of being able to keep patients at home and reduce unnecessary ambulance attendances and hospital referrals.

How the ambulance service will use video calling:

Clinical advice for staff – newly qualified paramedics will be able to use the facilities to speak to specialist paramedics for clinical advice whilst on scene with a patient who they think can be safely left at home without needing to travel to hospital. Using video instead of a phone call will allow staff to use visual cues in their clinical decision making.

Patient support – After going through the triage system on either NHS111 or 999, patients who need to speak to a clinician may be given a secure link via text message, which will take them through to a video call on their smart phone. Patients without a smart phone can instead be given the link for their computer or tablet.

Specialist support - the system also has the potential to be used by other specialists, such as the NEAS Hazardous Area Response Team and Great North Air Ambulance, to see whether their services are required on scene, ensuring their specialist skills are reserved for patients who need them most.

Paul Aitken-Fell, lead consultant paramedic at NEAS, said: “The initiatives we are pursuing through this programme, such as video consultation, are helping us to make better use of technology to improve the care and treatment decisions our clinicians make for our patients.

“In light of the current coronavirus pandemic, it is more important than ever that we are able to offer ways of being able to keep patients safely at home and reduce unnecessary ambulance attendances and referrals to hospital and other providers.

“One of the hardest jobs for a clinician working within our Emergency Operations Centre is the inability to see a patient and therefore having to rely on what they are being told over the phone.

“This inevitably means that they sometimes have no choice but to dispatch an ambulance just to get a pair of eyes on a patient and make sure they’re OK.

“The ability to see patients face to face via video consultations therefore means we can potentially reduce ambulance callouts, freeing up our clinicians to see more patients.

“We believe it may also mean we see a reduction in referrals to other providers, thereby freeing up appointments in the wider system and reducing the wait for people who need those physical appointments.

"And, for our newly qualified paramedics, it means they will have improved access to clinical support to help them deliver high quality care for every contact whilst also reducing unnecessary hospital admissions.”

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