Program Connects Ambulances to Hospitals in Rural Scotland
Thursday, November 16, 2017 | Comments

ViaSat announced it is working with the University of Aberdeen's Centre for Rural Health, NHS Highland and the Scottish Ambulance Service on a pilot program called SatCare. The program will enable paramedics to send high-resolution video and ultrasound images from connected ambulances to hospital-based medical experts, ahead of a patient's hospital arrival.

The connected ambulances will use ViaSat's satellite communications system, operating on its jointly owned KA-SAT high-throughput satellite network. The one-year SatCare trial, partly funded by the European Space Agency (ESA), aims to help about 1,000 patients living in remote and rural Scotland. The goal is to provide better patient care on long ambulance journeys, as well as provide more streamlined care upon hospital arrival, such as immediate transfer to an operating theatre.

As part of the pilot, five Scottish ambulances were equipped with state-of-the-art scanning equipment and ViaSat's satellite broadband communications system. Scans that take a paramedic less than five minutes to record and package with a video summary of the patient's condition will be transmitted in seconds over ViaSat's satellite system to the emergency department of Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, Scotland. The hospital experts will then assess the patient's needs, give medical advice to the paramedic in transit, and mobilize resources or specialist teams required for the patient's arrival.

The SatCare technology has been successfully tested using healthy volunteers. It will now be put into trial, helping several potentially life-threatening conditions.

"We are taking diagnostic tools used in the emergency department into rural ambulances, making them available at the site of an emergency,” Leila Eadie, research fellow at the University of Aberdeen's Centre for Rural Health, said. “Previous studies have shown the biggest barrier to practical use of pre-hospital ultrasound is interpretation of the scans: Images can be acquired with basic training and SatCare communications technology will facilitate expert assessment of images in the field. We want to maximize the benefits of having ultrasound available without requiring paramedics to undertake extensive sonography training."

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