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Tech-enabled ambulances can reduce response time significantly and ultimately reduce healthcare costs: Pranav Bajaj

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Pranav Bajaj, founder, Medulance Healthcare talks about how digitised ambulance services are ushering better efficiencies in healthcare delivery to reduce cost, improve patient care, and increase survival rates, in an interaction with Lakshmipriya Nair 

How are ambulance services transforming with the adoption of digitalisation and innovation?

 A breakthrough innovation in healthcare improves the quality, accessibility, and affordability of a service. To be truly great, a breakthrough should be equitable, replicable, and sustainable.

 Innovation and digitisation in ambulatory services can reduce cost, improve patient care, and increase survival rates. At Medulance, we have GPS-enabled ambulances with cameras and portable ECG machines inside so that we can relay critical information to doctors and emergency rooms prior to the patient reaching the hospital.

India ranks second in the COVID-19 global rankings and records lack of ambulances to dispatch suspects to designated hospitals. Each minute of delay in starting emergency treatment reduces survival by 7-10 per cent. Hence, another very important feature that digitisation has enabled is that ambulances can be allocated to the patient from the closest possible location making the entire process quicker, traceable and trackable. Further, it helps in sharing information with all the stakeholders for a comprehensive emergency medical service.

  • Drivers have information about patient location, condition and contact details.
  • The paramedic is well informed and prepared about the condition of the patient and prepares accordingly.
  • Patients and their relatives can check the location of ambulances along with the information of drivers and paramedics

Our ambulance devices have capabilities to be connected to the emergency rooms of hospitals or the emergency care providers. We share data of the patient with the hospitals (pre-hospital care report, as we call in Medulance) so that the emergency teams already have information about the incoming patient.

With large data being gathered regarding the patient condition, the location from which the requests are coming, all this data is analysed to improve the quality and efficiency of emergency services.

Ambulances are no longer used only for patient transfer. Some advanced life support provides ICU facilities inside the ambulance. Ambulances are now even used to provide dialysis, a new concept of dialysis on wheels. More such innovations will be seen in future to provide accessible and affordable patient care.

What are the drivers of digitalisation in ambulance services?

 The top drivers of digitalisation in ambulance and emergency services are;

  • Geotagging and GPS:  This is a decade back technology but, it’s still far from being implemented in ambulance services in India for real-time monitoring of ambulances.
  • Big data in emergency healthcare can help in a patient’s previous medical records, therefore doctors can start the treatment of any sudden illness of those patients (if needed) as early as possible. It also facilitates;

○ Lower rate of initial diagnostic errors via patient previous record analysis

○ More accurate staffing

○ Strategic placement of ambulances

  • SaaS platform helps in bridging the technology gap
  • EHR (Electronic healthcare records) and blockchain
  • Growth of wearable connected devices These will help identify high-risk patient (heart rate sensors, sweat meters, oximeters etc) and will aid in better preparedness for emergency healthcare providers

Due to the nature of industry, the person in an emergency needs a voice of trust, so at the front, a human touch/reassurance is always required and we integrate the technology at the backend to expedite the dispatch process, minimise response time and critical data sharing.

  • Emergency response service in India is unorganised and untraceable
  • Information gaps present a challenge to safe, continuous, and efficient patient care
  • To place the ambulance strategically from via analysing the emergency data accumulated over time
  • To find and allocate the nearest available ambulance, expedite the dispatch and minimise response time
  • To transfer the critical emergency information to the healthcare providers/emergency rooms
  • For building the digital database of emergency situations and continuous improvement by analysing the data
  • To meet the adequate manpower requirements via analysing how many calls a call centre employee can address so as do aim for 100 per cent call answer rate

Can you elaborate on the immediate and long-term efficiencies being ushered by digitalised ambulances to the way healthcare providers offer emergency medical services?

 At this time when the emphasis on preventing damage is greater than ever, the provision of pre-hospital care is the key to ensure that lives are not lost due to avoidable circumstances. Immediate efficiency is that digitised ambulance services like Medulance provides minimum response times and is able to cater to more and more lives. Also, real-time information about the patient can be passed on the emergency rooms in the hospitals.

For long-term, we can collect enough data to understand the demand patterns, risk areas and disease trends of the country, which will help us in implementing on-ground solutions. We will also be able to bridge the gap between rural/remote and urban India in terms of healthcare facilities by providing monitoring support till the patient from remote area reaches the hospital, by providing telehealth solutions and other healthcare facilities inside the ambulance,

Other benefits of deploying technology in the ambulatory sector include maximum patient care inside the ambulance via telehealth; ICU on wheels at the touch of a button which will further reduce the burden on hospitals for bed occupancy and the average length of stay as many surgical operations like dialysis and small surgeries can be performed on a digital ambulance. It will save cost and time for the patient.

How are these next-generation emergency responses systems crucial to enhance the user experience of patients?

These advancements are very crucial as it will ease the patient’s experience and hence, enhance user experience in the following ways:

  • Rich location data can help when calling emergency number’s accurate up to 5 miles, emergency and incident data from apps, connected cars, IoT, security devices, etc., resulting in- better efficiency, reduced response times, and better preparedness. Location data helps to pinpoint the exact location and cuts downtime to reach the care seeker. This could make the difference between life and death
  • Combination of old school and advanced technology will give a voice of trust and enhance patient outcomes.
  • At the time of emergency, quick and digitised services like Medulance can reduce panic and create better top of mind recall. We, at Medulance, aim to connect the country via a single emergency number.
  • Data-driven digitisation in EMS and automation increase efficiency and accuracy and further reduce the chances of errors
  • Response time can also be reduced drastically saving more lives and money. Medulance provides 100 per cent response rate in less than 20 minutes.

What are the unique aspects that digital ambulances can bring in to improve healthcare delivery in general?

India has entered the period of demographic dividend, a larger population of young people are working and contributing toward the economy of the country and thus requires better healthcare facilities. Technology-enabled care is the need of the hour to provide cost-effective solutions in India as the demand for quality health care is rising due to increasing population and increasing lifestyle diseases. A report released by the United Nations Population Fund and HelpAge India suggests that the number of elderly persons is expected to grow to 173 million by 2026. In order to cater to the medical requirements of diverse people in a country like India, we need robust technological infrastructure in the sector.

Digital ambulances will provide immediate and comprehensive care. They support pre-hospital care by sending real-time information and conditions about the patient to the doctors which helps paramedics in giving the best treatment. Tech-enabled ambulances can reduce response time significantly which will ultimately reduce healthcare costs.

Historic data and data from past interactions with patients can be used to understand demand patterns and high-risk areas. This data can be used to analyse the pattern of disease or type of emergency in the country. The good data-backed understanding can help us take required measures on various health indicators of the public while gaining early knowledge of health risks. It will also be beneficial for decision-makers in making and implementing health policies and assigning budgets for different diseases.

Tell us how Medulance Healthcare is contributing to bring in large scale adoption of next-gen ambulances in medical care? 

Medulance Healthcare is India’s first leading comprehensive end-to-end emergency response service provider. We aim to organise the end-to-end first point contact services with high-quality ambulances, trained drivers, and dedicated services. Our three-fold objective is a revolutionary step to build an emergency ecosystem.

Recently, we have witnessed a 3x surge in the demand of digitised ambulatory services amid the pandemic and have recorded a jump of 3,50,000 new subscribers on the platform. The uptick in demand is attributed to the ease of booking, tracking, and a timely diagnosis by Medulance emergency services and a dedicated helpline number. With the help of GPS-enabled ambulances and highly trained front-line staff, we are supporting patients within 25 minutes of duration. We use portable ECG machines and cameras inside the ambulance to relay patient data and images to the emergency room of hospitals so that doctors can give life-saving instructions to the paramedics. Banking upon our technological capabilities that allows fast booking and tracking of first point medical attention in no time, we ensure a 100 per cent response rate of emergency helpline calls.

We are working on maximising the fleet of GPS enabled ambulances in India and also enabling real-time data sharing with emergency rooms of hospitals via portable ECG and camera-equipped ambulances. We are focusing on a data-driven approach to increase health outcomes via better recommendations from previous emergency data gathered over time and strategic placement of ambulances. Medulance has also minimised the response time with a combination of technology at the backend and human touch at the front-end.

We, at Medulance, are also looking at integrating our technology and solutions with smart apps, connected cars, IoT, security devices, wearables, which will result in better efficiency, reduced response time, and better preparedness.

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