Technology for better ambulance care

"My background is in information science and the interaction between humans and computers.

"My research deals with information and communications technology – how it is used and what people need, focussing on the prehospital area, i.e. ambulance care.

"If you look at prehospital work from a perspective of information science, it is clear that ambulance personnel have to deal with a composite picture of many different types of information and processes. Considerable demands are made on ambulance nurses. They have to be able to deal with lots of different situations, environments, types of complaints and injuries, while also making difficult decisions and generally providing advanced care – and they need to be better resourced in order to be able to do all of this safely. There has been an incredible level of neglect in this area compared to where we and society are in purely technological terms, for example in respect of tools for decision-making support, documentation and record-keeping. This is why we need research.

"We also need to create work processes where technology works at every stage of the prehospital care chain, all the way from the call to the emergency services up until the patient’s arrival at the hospital or health centre. One example is that ambulance personnel often have to use several different recording and documentation systems and/or paper forms in which they describe the same thing in several different formats. It would make things easier if they only had to record events in just one system, and then continuously as the events occurred.

"We are dealing with complex issues here, and we have to work in multidisciplinary teams in order to make any progress. As part of our collaboration with the University of Skövde and the Skaraborg ambulance service, among others, we are linking together gaming research, information science and prehospital research in order to find out how best to train and educate staff for prehospital care. We are working on creating contextualised and realistic simulations for the entire prehospital process. These are based on a combination of environments, role-playing scenarios and technology, and they allow ambulance personnel to work as they normally do, but in a staged environment: from the call-out, to arriving at the scene, taking in the situation, making assessments, etc. We have now found that simulations like these can be used in more areas, like testing new systems or establishing what decision-making support is required in order to further improve the accuracy of diagnosis and to ensure that the patient is delivered to the correct care facility.

"I have a number of dream projects in addition to those I am currently working on, for example, creating a highly advanced prehospital research laboratory for developing and testing new technology and new procedures in realistic environments, and also being able to perform advanced data analysis. Or looking at what happens with information about a patient throughout the entire care chain, from the call to the emergency services, to the hospital or health centre." 

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Hanna Maurin Söderholm, senior lecturer at the Swedish School of Library and Information Science and in the PreHospen Centre for Prehospital Research at the University of Borås, spoke to Lena M Fredriksson

Photo: Ida Danell