The region’s air ambulance service is trialling a system which gives medics the ability to see patients by simply sending a text message to a 999 caller’s phone.
The Great North Air Ambulance Service is using the GoodSAM service to gather more information about certain incidents prior to launching its aircraft. By sending a text message to the caller, the GNAAS medics access their smartphone camera, giving them a live look at the nature and extent of injuries sustained by a patient.
Chris Smith, GNAAS aircrew doctor, has played an instrumental role in the introduction of GoodSAM’s Instant on Scene functionality to the region as part of an ongoing drive to improve the way the air ambulance is tasked to incidents.
He said the charity was already seeing good results from using the service, with members of the public happy to help.
He said: “We frequently ring people back on scene to get more information about an incident. But that can be problematic in that we are asking members of the public to identify often complex medical issues.
“This development gives us eyes on the ground so we can see for ourselves if our team is needed on scene or not. In terms of information gathering, it’s a significant step forward and we are pleased with the results so far.”
Dr Smith said that on one occasion, the GNAAS crew had used GoodSAM to activate the aircraft to a car crash that turned out to be more serious than first thought.
On another occasion, a member of the public’s phone allowed them to see that they were not needed. This allowed the aircraft to be made available for another incident.
The air ambulance will continue to adhere to its own despatch criteria, which means that it will automatically activate the aircraft and crew if an incident falls into a certain category. But in incidents where less information is available, GoodSAM provides a level of insight never previously available.
GoodSAM’s medical director, Professor Mark Wilson, said: “Being able to see the patient and the scene without them having to download a video chat app, and getting a reading of their vital signs, dramatically improves remote assessment of illness.
“This can be through visualising the mechanisms of injury, for instance the number of vehicles involved or how sick a patient appears. This information can radically improve resource management – prioritising patients who otherwise might not have been thought of as that urgent.”
GNAAS needs to raise more than £5m every year to survive. To donate, please visit www.gnaas.com/donate
To find out more about GoodSAM, visit www.goodsamapp.com