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Mission Critical ICT at St John NZ

Divina Paredes | Oct. 29, 2014
In his first week on the job, Martin Catterall joined the St John Clinical Control Centre staff who handle 111 emergency calls. The experience reaffirmed his decision to take on the inaugural CIO role for New Zealand's most trusted charity.

Construction of the modern complex started in July, and is scheduled to be completed in late 2016.

"We have quite a large degree of discussion about how all these different agencies and companies can come together, what can be shared and what can't, given the high degree of confidentiality and privacy that exists between the different agencies," says Catterall.

"There is a saying, good fences make good neighbours... but also working on a shared set of commitments gives good progress."

On the leading edge

St John is currently implementing electronic patient report forms (ePRF), with the aim of improving the quality and safety of the care and services it provides, along with the experience for patients.

Staff will have access to clear information that can be linked up with other health providers and shared with agencies such as the Ministry of Health to inform and improve their services.

Ambulance officers manually fill in about two million pages of paper patient report forms each year. The ePRF project, scheduled to be completed in mid-2015, will replace paper forms with electronic records completed on a portable Samsung tablet device.

We're looking at putting wireless technology into every ambulance station, so that while the ambulance is in transit it will be using the 3G network. Then, as it drives into the station, the wireless will take over.

"That's leading edge for an ambulance service, but once we start capturing that information electronically within the ambulance, our ability to communicate to hospitals, particularly emergency departments, increases dramatically," says Catterall.

"We can now start forwarding information to emergency departments while we're on route to hospital. We have a vision of the emergency departments being able to see the location of all of our ambulances and to know what's on board the ambulance, who's on board, and how they can be better prepared when the ambulance arrives.

"Clearly we communicate with ambulances now through radio or telephone, but when we can start sending more vital sign information electronically, that's a significant input."

The ambulances have communication hubs, with upgraded mobile data terminals (MDTs) being installed in every vehicle. Paramedics will use the MDTs to communicate their status during a response and whether they are available or not to accept jobs.

Catterall says this project is scheduled to be completed by early next year. "Once we've rolled out all of that, we'll be able to add the electronic patient record form application into the devices," he says.

At the moment, St John is going through significant testing with the Android tablet. Each tablet will be inside a rugged case.

"We have to prove the application on that tablet and then we have to put the Samsung tablet through a series of robust tests to make sure the tablet can withstand the work environment that we have," Catterall continues.


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