THE state health services presented a unique mobile phone application for ambulance calls on Wednesday, which they say is the first in Europe, which can track and locate a patient and help reduce response time.
The software, which will run through the Zoom Cyprus application, was developed free of charge by private companies in cooperation with the state health services and the ambulance service. It is slated to be up and running on June 1, said Health Minister Georgos Pamborides.
Users of android smart phones need to download the application through the Google play store and register. In cases of emergency, they call the ambulance service by simply pressing on a speed-dial icon and the information, including their location is received by the ambulance service’s coordination centre. This data is then sent to an ambulance, which is equipped with a tablet employing the Zoom application, with instructions on how best to reach the patient-caller.
Charalambos Xinaris, of the Track and Talk company that developed the software, said that the project can be summed up as “immediate location of patients from the ambulance service”.
Among the problems identified in case of emergencies, he said, was that patients do not know where to call or what their location is, or are not in a position to explain where they are.
In addition, he said, valuable time is lost until ambulances locate patients, or until the coordination centre gives the ambulance crew the necessary information.
“With this app, patients do not need to know where they are, or provide their personal information and medical history,” he said. The ambulance will trace patients immediately through Zoom Cyprus, which has maps of the whole island and can run even offline.
“When users are in need of an ambulance, they click on the app icon, and the call is made. The patient can then explain his or her condition, he said, even send a photo of an injury or the patient if the caller is acting for another person.
Users also receive messages with information on the progress of their call, that the ambulance is on its way, or the ambulance’s exact location.
The application also operates without internet connection, as the system sends sms messages and the procedure takes place the exact same way, Xinaris said.
The head of the state ambulance service, Riana Constantinou, said that the service has already introduced new ambulance stations, but they also saw the need to develop a software to better coordinate the service’s operations, and to improve response times. The new app ca also make calling for help easier to everyone, especially the hearuing impaired, deaf and mute persons.
“These are people who could not speak, had absolutely no means to tell us they are in an emergency and need help. Now, through this application, they can just send a text message, press the button and the message will reach us; we will reply with an sms, so they don’t have to say anything,” Constantinou said.
She added that the system was developed with zero cost, as stakeholders Track and Talk, Cyta and Frederick University offered expertise and equipment, while the medical service employees worked for free.
Based on international practice, she said, “we decided to upgrade the ambulance service, we have specially trained crew according to the Swedish model, where university level educated nurses receive a two-year additional training in special programmes, to be prepared to deal with the most difficult cases”.
From the time the call is received, Constantinou said, the ambulance must be on site to deal with the patient in less than ten minutes. At the moment, ambulance response time in Cyprus is “around ten minutes in urban areas and 20 minutes in rural areas, depending on the area”.
“The goal is to further reduce response time, as much as possible,” she said.
The ambulance service received 40,000 calls last year, she said, so there is a need to reduce response time but also offer effective, and the best possible care possible. “For us time equals life.”
At the moment, the ambulance service coordination centre provides services in Nicosia, Famagusta, and the mountainous areas, while Larnaca is next in line. The Paphos and Limassol districts cannot benefit from the application at the moment, she said, due to nursing staff shortage at the two hospitals.