It doesn’t sound a lot of time. It’s probably as long as it will take you to read this article. In business terms, how much difference can two minutes really make? Unless you work on a trading floor. Or in the emergency services.
London’s Air Ambulance started working with the enterprise mobile app company Mubaloo to modernise its dispatch process and save on precious response time. By freeing up paramedics in the London Ambulance Service Emergency Operating Centre from having to verbally give directions, and by giving helicopter pilots an iPad instead of having to wait for a printout, the Mubaloo app has saved the emergency service two minutes per callout on average.
Jason Morris, an advanced trauma paramedic at London’s Air Ambulance, told Techworld.com: “The ambulance service gold standard is “resource on scene” within eight minutes with cases of cardiac arrest.” Put another way: Saving two minutes means shaving a quarter off of the response time.
Morris explained with a story. He was responding to a call following a road traffic accident. “Paramedics have something of a sixth sense when it comes to these things and I believed that the patient wasn’t breathing. So I dispatched the aircraft, and now I only have to press a button, so I was able to go back to the caller and instruct them to pull the patient out of the vehicle and clear the airway and maintain that patient.
“In the old days we would have not been able to free up the line and as a paramedic we wouldn’t be able to give that advice as quickly.” It’s not often that enterprise apps can be cited in cases of life and death.
So, how did we get here? As with any established business process, London’s Air Ambulance didn’t necessarily think it had a problem.
The process ran something like this:
A call would come in from emergency services, the dispatcher would brief a co-pilot who would input the case details into an Excel spreadsheet. The co-pilot makes some calculations for arrival time, assess which hospital would be the best destination and calls the control tower at Heathrow airport to clear the relevant air space. The co-pilot waits for three print outs and takes them to the helicopter where they brief the pilot and set off on the mission.
Mubaloo, a company which specialises in developing bespoke, enterprise-grade mobile applications, came on board to eliminate the major pain points and operational risks inherent in this process. Mubaloo started out by replacing the whole process with a thin, simple iPad app that would connect to the dispatch unit back end using low-latency WebSocket technology.
Paramedics now receive the dispatch information quicker than the alarms can sound. They no longer have to print off documents or make calculations, which they were doing on the Apple calculator app before. Instead all the information is pulled straight from the dispatch database, cutting down the chance of human error.
The solution needed to be low-latency so that operational decisions could be made on the move, so Mubaloo opted to extend a pre-existing relationship with EE. The Mubaloo app integrated EE's 4G networking capabilities with pre-loaded, highly detailed London A-Z maps, giving paramedics an all-in-one solution.
Testing for every eventuality
Consultancy director at Mubaloo Juan Pablo Luchetti told Techworld.com that from a technical point of view this was one of the simplest apps they have ever deployed, but “what was complicated was to make sure security and reliability was correct.”
“This was a very rare project in that we can literally touch all the devices it is implemented on, just six iPads,” said Luchetti.
“The real complexity was the QA (quality assurance) bit. The QA challenge was in running through every possible scenario we could think of, such as the device moving between Wifi, 3G and 4G and the impact this has on battery life. We needed to test every aspect”.
So, it all sounds good from a technical point of view, but do the paramedics actually take the iPads out with them or do they revert to tried and trusted paper when the pressure to save lives is really on?
Luchetti was to the point: “To date there hasn’t been one mission which the app hasn’t gone with them.”
Mubaloo won the Ultimate App prize at The Techies this year for its work with London Air Ambulance.