Coventry & Warwickshire Ambulance NHS Trust Adopts Wireless Solution To Non Emergency Patient Transport In £250K Deal
Coventry & Warwickshire Ambulance NHS Trust have recognised that by being able to monitor their vehicle and patient movements by utilising the technologies provided by the Wireless Delivered™ suite of products from T@lecom and the O2 mobile network, they can utilise public money more efficiently and generate greater benefits for patients and the NHS.
The introduction of new contract performance criteria from 1st April 2004 led to extensive research being carried out by the Trust. This research revealed that parcels tracking technology could improve its non emergency service and the newly merged Coventry and Warwickshire Ambulance NHS Trust has therefore recently adapted and introduced the new wireless data-capture system to meet the challenges of transporting non-emergency patients between their homes and hospital departments.
The Trust operates a varied fleet of ambulances to perform such tasks. It has the largest single UK contract with University Hospitals, Birmingham and several other significant contracts including the University Hospital, Coventry and Warwickshire. The requirements of such an operation are far more critical than that of moving parcels, but the planning and logistics are very similar. The Service must be able to plan pick up and drop patients on time for their appointments, with minimal delays and as efficiently and effectively as possible. A live wireless tracking system seemed to be the ideal way to meet all these requirements and enhance the service offered by the NHS to its patients.
Coventry and Warwickshire Ambulance NHS Trust chose T@lecom and O2 as its partners to develop a suitable system. T@lecom, which was formed in 2002, had already launched Wireless Delivered™, a cost effective, real time mobile data solution that has been rapidly taken up by the parcels industry and is presently being used by carriers such as Hellmans Logistics, Concord Logistics, Scarlet Couriers and Klicka Couriers.
T@lecom’s Wireless Delivered™ technology provides a continuous line of communication between an organisation’s control centre and an employee in the field equipped with the O2 XDAII PDA utilising the O2 GPRS mobile network. One of the most advanced mobile data solutions currently available, and providing additional functions such as satellite navigation and automatic vehicle location to within 10 metres every minute, it proved to be the most suitable to meet the increasing demands of the non-emergency ambulance service.
Working together to develop new software in conjunction with Pace Altec’s new Meridian PTS system, the organisations have developed a system that provides better quality data on the movement of patients and enables the ambulance service to work more effectively, efficiently and hence make better use of public money.
Following successful trials, the Coventry & Warwickshire Ambulance NHS Trust has signed a 3-year contract with T@lecom worth around £250K.
The new system, which is already attracting a good deal of interest from other ambulance services around the Country, enables ambulance staff using XDA II handheld units to log the time they arrive at a patient’s house, the time they leave and the time they deliver them to their destination. Using the system, unique data for every patient moved is now instantly available to the control centre, whilst the additional satellite navigation and tracking facilities ensures far greater productivity than the service was previously able to deliver.
Commenting on the improved service following the introduction of the new T@lecom system, Chris Brown from Coventry & Warwickshire Ambulance NHS Trust said: “The logistics of our operation are complex and need careful planning. Even then, there is the potential for disruption to the service; traffic congestion, the distances that have to be travelled and other problems outside of the Services control, to appreciate the kind of difficulties we can expect to encounter on a regular basis.
“Previously, we used mobile radio technology and organised our vehicles on a journey scheduling basis. This was fine up to a point, but a recent change in contract specifications together with having to adapt to new conditions imposed as a result of NHS modernisation meant that more data on the transport of patients was required, and our existing system was going to fall short of expectations.
“Individual journey times were recorded but the original system only reported as complete loads. We needed a way to track everyone individually and we thought that if it was possible to do this with a parcel, why not a patient.
“The operational principles used by T@lecom’s Wireless Delivered™ system for the parcels industry, particularly the successful way it was already meeting the stringent time requirements demanded by same day couriers, raised the idea that this could be the way to provide the better quality information that was now needed. We discussed it with T@lecom’s CEO Jan O’Hara and by working together with the O2 network have been able to adapt the technology and produce the desired solution.
“I am very excited by the new system. In theory it could be applied to coordinate the movement of emergency patients as well, and also has potential as an application for emergency patient records and other clinical data transmission.
“We have been the first to sign up, but I’m sure it will not be long before other parts of the NHS start to recognise the potential of the T@lecom system, which could also become a blueprint solution in many other instances where accurate, real time information on the movement of patients or staff can help save time and money, and improve the efficiency and indeed security of NHS staff.
“It’s fast, adaptable, cost effective, improves control and is especially useful in a situation such as ours where flexibility is of paramount importance: for instance, a large proportion of our staff work from home; so journeys do not always start from ambulance stations. Using the new system, all these variables can be factored in, monitored continuously and, in some cases contingencies can be planned for whilst a situation is developing. This can utilise resources more effectively, increase productivity and minimise any inconvenience for patients and NHS staff, and is the way forward in the modernising NHS.”