Technology for better ambulance care

An outlook:

“I have a background in information science and the interaction between humans and computers.

My research is about new information and communication technologies: how they are used and what people need, focusing on the prehospital area, i.e. ambulance care.

Looking at the prehospital work from an information science perspective, what emerges is a composite picture of many different types of information and processes that ambulance staff have to deal with. Ambulance nurses have demanding jobs. They must cope with many different situations, environments, types of illness and injuries, and make difficult decisions and generally provide advanced care. They need better conditions for doing so safely. The area is immensely neglected in relation to where we and society are in a purely technical sense; for example, when it comes to tools for decision support, documentation, and reporting. Therefore, our research is needed.

We also need to create work processes in which the technology used works throughout the prehospital care chain, from the time of the emergency call until the patient arrives at the hospital or health centre. One example: often, ambulance staff need to use several different journal and documentation systems and/or paper forms, in which they describe the same thing in several different formats. It would be much more efficient if they only needed to record documentation in one system and then update it continuously at the time of the event.

These are complex issues we are dealing with and we have to work in interdisciplinary teams to make progress. We collaborate with the University of Skövde and the Ambulance Centre in Skaraborg, where we combine gaming research, information science, and prehospital research to find out how best to train and educate people within prehospital care. We work to create contextual, realistic simulations for the entire prehospital process. These are based on a combination of environments, role playing, and technology, and allow ambulance staff to work as they usually do, albeit in a staged environment: get dispatched, arrive on the scene, review the situation, make assessments, and so on. We have now seen that such simulations can be used in more areas, such as testing new systems or finding out what decision support is needed to make the correct diagnosis even more certain and to ensure that the patient comes to the correct care setting.

I have several dream projects in addition to those I'm already working with, for example, to create a truly advanced prehospital research lab to develop and test new technologies and new working methods in realistic environments and also to be able to perform advanced data analysis. Or to look at what happens to a patient's information all the way through the care chain, from emergency dispatch, to hospitals or primary health care settings.”

Hanna Maurin Söderholm, Senior Lecturer at the Swedish School of Library and Information Science and PreHospen at the University of Borås, as told to Lena M Fredriksson

Photo: Ida Danell
Translation: Eva Medin