Ambulances in Kent are now equipped with a Remote Patient Monitoring System that is the first of its kind in the U.K. The system transmits the patient's vital signs, including blood pressure, ECG and pulse, to the hospital in seconds and helps improve care in the ambulance.
U.K. company introduces telemedicine
Systems Guidance Ltd. (SGL), a computer software and hardware supplier based in Coventry in the U.K., recently completed trials on an ambulance data communications project that is the first of its kind in the U.K. The RAM Network is being used to transmit patient vital signs to Accident and Emergency departments before the ambulance gets to the hospital.
Vital information, including ECG waveform, pulse oximetry, heart rate and blood pressure, is captured either at the scene of an incident or on the way to the hospital. It is then transmitted to the receiving hospital in a matter of seconds over the Mobitex network. The information is monitored by the consulting doctor, who can make an immediate diagnosis and transmit information and instructions back to the ambulance crew.
"Using the RAM Network we can get crucial information to the hospital in seconds. Given that the average journey time to hospital can be up to 40 minutes, this is a significant breakthrough, both in speeding up patient diagnosis and improving patient care," says John Bumside, CEO at Kent Ambulance.
RPMS (Remote Patient Monitoring System) was developed by SGL in collaboration with Kent Ambulance Service, NHS Trust, Nellcor UK and RAM Mobile Data. The system applies telematics to wireless data communications and uses the latest computer technology to capture vital medical data in the field.
A DOS-compatible data terminal, developed and manufactured by SGL, is fitted in the ambulance and linked to a Nellcor patient monitoring unit. The ambulance system will automatically monitor the patient's vital signs, induding blood pressure, ECG and pulse oximetry. This data is then transmitted in real-time over the nationwide RAM Mobile Data Network to the Accident and Emergency department of the receiving hospital.
"The RAM Network is available throughout most of the U.K. If an ambulance is caught in traffic or is some distance away, it can still remain in contact with the hospital," says Steve Austin at SGL's Mobile Data Systems division. The information is displayed graphically at the hospital and monitored by the consulting doctor, who can then guide the paramedics in providing patient, care in the ambulance.
"This important application dearly proves the reliability and security features of the RAM Network. This is backed up by the fact that police forces and fire brigades across the U.K also use the RAM Network for mission-critical data transfer," observes Steve Webb, sales manager for emergency service applications at RAM U.K.
The PC display in the ambulance presents menus for registering information for the patient record: name, civil registration number, pulse, general health, blood oxygen level, etc. All data entered in the ambulance is transferred to the hospital and can be stored and printed out to monitor the entire course of events.
The trials in Kent have established that the technology is viable, and the system is now operational in five front-line vehicles. "In conjunction with Kent Ambulance, we plan to extend the system to a wider area of operation. There is already considerable interest from other ambulance services nationwide," concludes SGL's Steve Austin.