999 callers can now share live video streams with medics to assess patient severity
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Emergency services will now be able to access video streams of ill patients before ambulance crews arrive thanks to a new platform that allows anyone with a smartphone to share a stream with medics.
Users do not need to download an app to use the service, emergency services send a simple text message to the caller’s phone with a link that allows video uploads to happen through a normal browser.
The system is even able to measure a patient’s pulse just from the video stream while the beta version of the platform can measure multiple patients’ pulses simultaneously.
The system is pioneered by GoodSAM (Good Smartphone Activated Medics), which has previously created an app to send alerts to off duty doctors, nurses and paramedics in the event of a local emergency.
Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance and Great North Air Ambulance have already begun using the technology, while GoodSAM is in talks with to introduce it with other services.
The 999 call can continue while the video is streaming, allowing emergency services to provide advice and assess the patient.
The technology, which works on any smartphone, does not store the video to the device and does not require an app.
Professor Richard Lyon, associate medical director of Kent, Surrey and Sussex air ambulance, said: “Time is critical in saving a person’s life or reducing long-term disability, and often we have limited information from bystanders about a patient’s or multiple patients’ injuries to make decisions.
“Callers usually aren’t medically trained so information isn’t always accurate.
“Being able to see the scene of the incident, not only the patients, but how many cars are involved for example, is game-changing in helping us decide what additional resources we might need to send, assessing who we might need to treat first or what medication we might need to give.”
GoodSAM, an app which alerts off-duty medics and those trained in life support to emergencies nearby, was co-founded by Professor Mark Wilson.
He said the new technology is “unbelievably simple” to integrate into existing systems and believes it could be used across emergency services in the UK.
Professor 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 example 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.”
New 5G mobile network technologies, which are predicted to launch in the UK over the next couple of years, allow for ‘network slicing’ which will in effect guarantee a chunk of mobile phone spectrum for emergency services. In the future this could allow for crystal clear video streaming for ambulances as well as police and fire services.