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Technology brings hospital to the street

Medical specialists who view live-stream footage of paramedics and advise on the best treatment. Ambulancezorg Groningen is working on this technology, together with students from the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Health Hub Roden and the Martini Ziekenhuis hospital.

Quicker assessment of what’s going on, being able to receive good advice immediately, direct consultation. The benefits of the technology which Ambulancezorg Groningen is working on are clear. The organisation is experimenting with glasses that feature a camera, a screen and a telephone – specifically developed for paramedics.

“A national survey shows that one in five victims with burn-related injuries brought to the Burns Unit didn’t need to go there”, Bram Oosting talks about the impetus for this project. He is leading the development of this technology on behalf of the Ambulancezorg. “Research shows that paramedics assess burns to be more severe than a specialist from the Burns Unit. The outcome being that some patients could have been treated in an ordinary hospital. Closer to home perhaps, less drastic, cheaper. A specialist is able to make a better assessment of this.”

Specialist views live

It is one of the examples that shows the advantages of camera glasses. “In essence, the glasses bring a little bit of the hospital to the street.  You suddenly have a specialist with you when you head out in the ambulance. That’s the way to look at it.”

The AR (Augment Reality) glasses promise many more possibilities, such as a rapid display of protocols in the corner of the eye, but in time also the patient’s vitals. And who knows what else. Students are currently working on these types of questions. They were brought in by paramedics through the Health Hub in Roden. The place where entrepreneurs, the government and knowledge institutes are able to find each other en route to innovations in the medical sector.

“Look, we know a lot about healthcare, about how we need to help and transport patients quickly. But we aren’t technicians. That’s where we really need the help of knowledge institutions. And this way works perfectly.”

 

5G brings opportunities

The AR glasses are still far from being fully developed. The idea came about in the mind of Bram 

Oosting around four years ago. “That’s when we started with digital photo consultation. Our paramedics took photos of the burn injuries using a tablet and sent them to the Burns Unit, where a specialist could make an assessment. That worked well, and the follow-up question was a logical one: is this not possible in real time, so that we can consult without delay to make the best possible choices as early as possible?”

Ambulancezorg Groningen teamed up with 5Groningen, the Fieldlab on the Zernike Campus which tests 5G, the latest generation of mobile network. A trial demonstrated that real time contact using the AR glasses works, but that the technology is not yet perfect. “We discovered that the connection using 4G wasn’t good enough. There’s a delay between image and sound. Not only annoying, but also tricky.”

The new standard

“Yes, I’m sure that all our medical staff will shortly be out on the road with these glasses, as soon as 5G is available everywhere. And it’s inevitable that more and more features will be added over time. We start small, and build out slowly. I’m convinced that this will become the standard. First in Groningen, then in the Netherlands, and then across the border. There’s no reason why not.”

The world is keeping a close eye, and that’s no surprise. The AR glasses is the technical solution for many challenges in health care. Oosting: “If you look at our own field, you’ll see that we are dealing with an aging population, with more people living longer at home, with changes in the health care landscape such as specialising hospitals. Because of all this, the demand for ambulance care is increasing in percentages annually. And in the meantime, we’re struggling with a growing staff shortage in the care sector. Our solution helps to make health care as efficient as possible.”

 

60,000 call outs

Ambulancezorg Groningen sends out between 55,000 and 60,000 ambulances on the road each year. Of these cases, 25,000 are an emergency. To be able to do this task, 340 people are working at the Ambulancezorg Groningen with access to around forty (43) vehicles.