London Ambulance control room medics are viewing live images from the mobiles of 999 callers to decide whether to dispatch a trauma team.
The technological breakthrough allows immediate assessment of critical incidents such as stabbings and road collisions.
It means London’s Air Ambulance specialist medics are sent to incidents where the level of need is greatest — and prevents them being dispatched to lower-level calls.
Paramedics in the LAS control room in Waterloo are even able to assess how serious a patient’s injuries are from watching the live video stream.
LAS chief medical officer Dr Fenella Wrigley said: “This technology is ground-breaking in London Ambulance Service and is already making an impact helping the most critically injured people in the capital.”
He added that it “helps clinicians assess the patient’s condition and enables them to provide medical advice and support while ambulance and air ambulance clinical teams are on the way to the scene”.
The technology is the latest innovation on the GoodSAM app, which was launched in 2015 to alert off-duty doctors to nearby emergencies such as cardiac arrests. Under the GoodSAM instant-on-scene platform, 999 callers are asked for permission for their phone camera to be accessed remotely. If they agree, they receive a text message with a link. Clicking on it sends a video stream to medics in the control room. The technology even allows the medics to measure a pulse and the phone’s GPS data confirms the incident location.
It has been used by LAS 67 times since launch last month. On eight occasions, a trauma team was dispatched immediately — rather than waiting for a call from the first ambulance crew on scene.
In 10 cases, the LAS control room medic was able to provide advice over the phone to help the caller to provide immediate first aid and increase the patient’s chances of survival.
On 38 occasions, air ambulance medics were not required — meaning they could be kept on standby for more serious calls.
Professor Mark Wilson, neurosurgeon and GoodSAM co-founder, said it “could herald a significant leap forward in pre-hospital care”. He said: “Our mission is to save lives through technology, and we believe the ability to instantly see the mechanism of injury and how sick a patient looks can make a considerable difference to patient care.”
The platform works with all smartphones and does not require an app to be downloaded. It works differently to Skype or FaceTime.
Jason Morris, flight paramedic with London’s Air Ambulance, said: “In 10 years of working in the control room this is one of the biggest innovations that I have seen.” He said it was already improving patient outcomes.