Smartphone cameras helping to treat ambulance patients across Devon

A South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust call handler

A South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust call handler - Credit: SWASFT

Smartphone technology is helping South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) to reach patients virtually within seconds. 

Clinicians in the ambulance control rooms are asking some 999 callers to use their phone camera to help them to assess the patient’s injuries or illness and decide what treatment is required. 

With their permission the caller is sent a text message asking them to click and accept a link to send a live stream from their camera phone to the clinician. 

The GoodSAM Video Consultation platform enables the clinician to see the patient on their screen, and provide the most appropriate help and advice for them. In some cases, it can help identify patients who don’t need an emergency ambulance. 

Rhys Hancock, SWASFT Acting Deputy Head of Quality and Senior Clinical Lead for Clinical Technology, said: “The GoodSAM video technology is making a really positive difference to our patient care across the South West. 

“Our clinicians can assess the patient’s condition more effectively, provide clinical advice based on what they see and hear, and support the patient until the ambulance teams arrive on scene if they are required. 

“This is helping us to provide the right care to our patients, in the right place, and at the right time. It is also reassuring our callers that the best is being done for the patient. 

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“Most importantly it is helping to ensure precious resources, such as ambulances and air ambulances, are sent to those most in need, and ultimately helping us to save lives.” 

SWASFT launched a trial of the technology in May 2020, and observed a benefit for its response to numerous emergency incidents. These ranged from patients who simply needed advice to manage their illness or injury at home to those who could be observed while an ambulance was on its way.  

Specialist Paramedic Craig Andrews used GoodSAM Video Consultation to assist the parents of a baby who had sustained a head injury. 

He said: “The technology really gave the parents a great deal of reassurance that a clinician had seen their child. Within a matter of minutes, all their worries had gone and they felt reassured and ready to follow self-care advice without requiring an ambulance to attend.”  

The technology has since been rolled out for use by all clinicians within the ambulance control rooms. 

It can be used by anyone who has a smartphone, and they don’t need to download an app for the video stream to be enabled. All data is securely transmitted with end-to-end encryption and the video consultation is not recorded. 

SWASFT has used a separate function of the GoodSAM app since 2019 to alert trained responders to cardiac arrest incidents in their local community, so they can provide lifesaving support before ambulance crews arrive.

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