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Boosting ambulance clinician connectivity to enhance patient care and staff wellbeing

Richard Henderson is the Chief Executive at East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EMAS), the digital lead for the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, and an experienced paramedic.

I started my career in the ambulance service 25 years ago and I worked in a variety of frontline and management roles, including paramedic, before becoming Chief Executive at East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EMAS). I remember when ambulances had no satellite navigation, the only communication was via a vehicle based ultra high frequency radio, patient report forms were on photocopied A4 paper and access to drug information was often reliant on you having your own paper copy of a BNF book (British National Formulary). Since that time many things have changed. Clinical, scientific and technological advances have been inspiring and have saved many lives.

Year on year increases in demand, that are often unpredictable, means our colleagues continue to provide emergency and urgent healthcare in often difficult circumstances and challenging environments. Over 75% of our EMAS workforce is frontline and for them, our patients and our organisation, the investment in tablets is tremendous news. The money my trust has received will allow us to progress our Digital Transformation Programme and allocate each of our patient-facing colleagues with a personal issue iPad. Staff involvement is key and we have a team trialling the use of the device to help us get the full roll-out right.

Timely and reliable tech

The device gives crews everything they need in one place, in a timely and reliable way. Rather than having to travel back to the ambulance station and wait for the station computer to become available, colleagues will be able to complete work, such as incident reporting, on their iPad. This speeds up the process, giving more time to deliver patient care whilst reducing the miles covered.

As our roll out progresses, ambulance crews will be able to access patient records and information about alternative services on their device, so more patients can be treated at home or at least use alternatives to a busy A&E.

Useful apps

Apps on the device will help with clinical decision making. These include JRCALC+ (Joint Royal Colleges Ambulance Liaison Committee) clinical guidelines, and Toxbase, which calculates the level of toxicity when someone has ingested a harmful or poisonous substance, supporting me to determine the course of treatment needed. There’s also the What3Words, which can help my colleagues find patients in the middle of no-where.

Staff will be able to use the iPad camera App to take quality photos from the scene of road traffic collisions, which can then be linked to the patient’s record and shared with the hospital to aid their preparations and decision making. You can dictate information to the device too, which is handy given the fast moving nature of the job.

As you’d expect, we’ll ensure robust information governance and IT security, and the device will come with a rugged case. To ensure the best signal for staff across the East Midlands, we will have SIMs which can roam over UK mobile phone networks.

Better communication between teams

The nature of what we do, the high level of activity we respond to, and at times difficulties accessing a station computer has resulted in communication and engagement challenges. The new iPads will help improve this. Staff will have immediate access to their work email account, clinical bulletins, the global rostering system to fill in timesheets or book annual leave, the electronic staff record to view their payslips, staff wellbeing support services details, statutory and mandatory online training, our weekly staff magazine, and Microsoft Teams for video conferencing and group chat. This will, again, reduce the need to travel back to the station.

Investing in the future

The opportunities really are endless and that is why, together with my executive and non-executive colleagues I have agreed the EMAS long-term funding and resources needed to ensure smooth implementation and continuous development of the personal issue iPads. I am committed to this programme and believe it will enhance the care and services we provide to both our patients and staff.