Study explores potential for 999 calls to be “video live streamed” to aid response decision-making

A study led by the University of Surrey and funded by the NIHR has looked at the potential for technology to enable “video live streaming” of trauma incidents, with the aim of helping to support decision-making from the emergency services around response.

Enabled by 999 callers’ smartphones, the study explored the possibility that sending live video footage could make it easier to see the number and type of emergency vehicles and personnel required for major trauma incidents. The research builds on existing work with GoodSAM instant on-scene technology, which allows callers to share location and video with call handlers without needing to download an app.

The technology was trialled over a six-week period from June to November 2022, with 240 trauma incidents included, and footage viewed in 85 percent of calls. Changes identified in decision-making included the KSS air ambulance being stood down in two cases, “saving money and enabling them to be redeployed elsewhere”.

Professor Cath Taylor, University of Surrey, noted that with most ambulance services in the UK relying on callers to verbally relay accurate information about what happened at the scene along with the condition of the patient(s) involved, information can be unintentionally inaccurate due to shock and lack of medical knowledge. “Not having correct information makes it difficult for emergency medical services to determine how many and what types of medical personnel and vehicles should be sent to the scene,” she said. “Using GoodSAM could help us overcome this. However, we need to understand the practicalities of implementing and evaluating such technology within emergency services.”

Professor Richard Lyon, University of Surrey, commented that giving dispatchers “eyes on the ground” could be “game-changing in helping them dispatch the appropriate response to major trauma incidents. Air ambulance services are important, scarce and expensive resources that must be tasked accurately to those patients who need them most. What we have found is live video streaming from 999 callers is feasible to implement, acceptable, and easy to use for both callers and dispatchers.”

He highlighted a need for further research in order to better understand the impact that live streaming could have on dispatch decisions, along with whether it could potentially improve speed and accuracy of ambulance dispatch.

“We also found it challenging to recruit 999 callers to the study,” he added, “and need to work with members of the public to overcome this challenge for future research, as their insight is invaluable.”

In other news around ambulance services, in December HTN reported that The East of England NHS Collaborative Procurement Hub, in collaboration with the National Ambulance Procurement Board, has awarded a framework agreement contract to five suppliers for the provision and support of EPR systems to be utilised by ambulance services across England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Wight.

In October, we also covered the five-year strategy from London Ambulance Service NHS Trust, with focus on modernising estate and infrastructure; ensuring that staff have access to digital tools to help them do their jobs; and investing in modern ways of working such as using artificial intelligence and robotic automation.