Smart ambulance minds think inside the Box

17th February 2015

Leading ambulance personnel representing 12 European countries gathered for a two day Kick-off meeting at the Royal College of Art’s Dyson Gallery in Battersea on Wednesday and Thursday (11 & 12 February) last week to kick-start a consultation process focusing on the design and build of an innovative hi-tech 21st century ‘Smart’ ambulance which, when completed, could significantly alleviate pressure on Emergency Departments and hospitals.

Participants viewed a full-size Demonstrator Box that embodies design features informed by a 9 year research project. The box, modeled on a typical A& E ambulance patient treatment unit, was designed by the Royal College of Art’s Healthcare Research Lab, part of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design. Ambulance and healthcare delegates from as far afield as Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland were shown the box’s hi-tech interior and invited to share their thoughts on what clinical design elements on display would best improve the shape of their own nation’s ambulance delivery

Backed with nearly €500K of EC research funding, the RCA -led "Smart Ambulance: European Procurers Platform (SAEPP)" consultation project will engage ambulance clinicians and design experts from across Europe over the next seven months with the goal of developing a blueprint for a shared emergency ambulance vehicle prototype intended to demonstrate the enhanced role that ambulance services could play in delivering improved healthcare within the community, reducing unnecessary hospital admissions across the EC.

The SAEPP project is funded by the EC under the ICT 35-f European Procurers Platform (EPP) strand, which aims to bring together partners from across the EC zone to solve shared challenges in healthcare by forming consortiums to share healthcare and technology resources.

Also backed by leading surgeon and clinical advisor to the NHS, Lord Ara Darzi , the SAEPP project aims to help ambulance services across Europe to massively reduce unnecessary transports to hospital.  In the UK alone, these amount to an average of 40% of all journeys conducted by NHS ambulance services.

RCA Senior research fellow and SAEPP Design-Lead, Ed Matthews, who is looking forward to the challenge ahead, commented “With the support of Lord Darzi  and many other clinical thought-leaders, we’ve been developing our concept of an ambulance redesign that can alleviate pressures on hospitals and bring revitalised models of ambulance healthcare delivery closer to the patient  for over five years now,  so  we’re delighted that our policy of active consultation and involvement among European ambulance partners is the ingredient that has carried us forward to this next stage.”

Ed added: “As a healthcare designer, I’m personally very excited about the technologies and systems this project is bringing together for the first time, but in the final analysis, it’s all about helping ambulance services across Europe to craft a new role for themselves in the wider healthcare landscape - not only as an urgent care transport mechanism, but also as a first-point deliverer of healthcare to the patient - one that can either treat them comprehensively on-scene, without the need to take them to a hospital, or one which can at least provide the right type of immediate care referral and help direct the patient to the right part of each member state’s healthcare system, faster and without any wrong turns.”

If successful the SAEPP project could be taken forward by as soon as September, resulting in the build of a number of fully-operational prototype ambulances that would then be tested in the field and evaluated across Europe within two years.

Ambulance prototype

Link to Google