Emergency services technology solution is the first of its kind in Africa | Western Cape Government


Emergency services technology solution is the first of its kind in Africa

5 December 2017

Innovative digital technology will be used to enhance Emergency Medical Service (EMS) coordination over the festive season. The technology will support the dual objectives of patient-centred care, and EMS staff safety.

At the heart of this ground-breaking solution, is a technology ‘platform’ that allows WCG Health’s employees located in six Emergency Control Centres, 52 ambulance stations, and crew in 519 vehicles to collaborate around the clock, 365 days a year.

Global IT group, Dimension Data, has been collaborating with the Department to implement this technology over the last 4 years.

This is according to Western Cape Health Minister Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, who held a press conference on Tuesday to outline the Department’s festive season readiness plans.

The Western Cape EMS is one of the busiest ambulance services in South Africa, transporting between 45,000 and 50,000 patients each month.  There are three peaks which correlate with the 3 main events of the festive season, namely workers going on leave, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Whilst increases are noted in road traffic accidents the main increase is noted in interpersonal violence, with a 250% increase from average on New Year’s day. This is strongly correlated with alcohol use and, in most cases, is preventable.

“It is critical to get the right medical teams to the right place, quickly. When you’re providing emergency medical care to this many patients, efficiency is crucial, while also balancing the person-centred care approach and staff safety,” said Mbombo.

The provincial Health Department recently launched a Safety Plan in aid of EMS staff, who often work under dangerous conditions in parts of the metro designated as Red Zones. 

As part of the Safety Plan this festive season, a dedicated EMS resource will be placed in the City of Cape Town’s Transport Management Centre (TMC) to monitor the Red Zones and alert the ambulances when entering a crime hotspot. There has also been a greater engagement between the Health Department and anti-crime initiatives linked to CCTV footage.

Overall coordination efforts this festive season will be further enhanced by the Department’s R200 million investment in state-of-the-art digital communications technology.

The investment has been made over the past 4 years, and is transforming how the department delivers emergency-, forensic pathology-, and other healthcare services to Western Cape citizens

“When our contact centre receives an emergency call, it is routed to the appropriate agent,” explained Dr Shaheem de Vries, WCG Health Head: EMS.

Using the system’s intuitive map search function facility, the agent captures the location of the incident and other specific details.

The incident location is then passed on to the dispatcher in real-time. Because all our vehicles are tracked, we’re able to swiftly dispatch the appropriate response unit to the scene. 

At the same time, incident location data is sent to a mobile terminal in the ambulance, which assists the crew to navigate to the incident scene.

After assessing the patient, ambulance crew electronically capture the patient’s medical care data. This information, together with the estimated time of arrival, is securely forwarded to the hospital.

Incident information which is displayed on digital wallboards in hospitals, alert medical staff about the arrival time of ambulance and the patient’s condition.

At the same time, medical staff access the patient’s electronic medical care record, and proactively prepare the resources and equipment required to treat the patient.

Other features that Dimension Data designed and built into the WCG Health healthcare service include:

  • EMS staff safety
    Crews are provided with panic buttons. When activated, dispatchers are alerted in the nearest Emergency Control Centre. The vehicle is tracked in real time, allowing information to be passed on to law enforcement agencies for quick action.
  • Planned patient transport
    In addition to emergency incidents and inter-facility transfers, WCG Health staff can electronically book patient transport on any of the 63 available routes. Patients are notified about their transport booking via SMS, and they can also send an SMS to the emergency control room.
  • Resource planning
    The technology solution also allows comprehensive resource planning that helps EMS management to optimise rostering and scheduling of human resources for shift cycles. Fleet personnel also use the technology to manage the availability and readiness of the various types of vehicles for each shift.
  • Data analytics
    Operational data which is centrally and securely stored, is analysed by WCG Health staff to identify operational efficiency opportunities; reduction in wastage; and clinical quality assurance 

“This ground-breaking technology has empowered WCG Health to not only meet patient demands in challenging conditions, but become a leaner, more efficient organisation,” concluded Dr Mbombo.