Monday, 18 July 2011

Café Connect 7 – Saturday 9th July, New Galloway

Another early start and another ferry (this time Craignure-Oban) was followed by a long drive down south.

We headed to Kitty’s Tearoom for a pre-Café Connect dinner – if you’re looking for the best traditional tearoom in the UK, this is it.

En-route we spotted the Galloway Kite Trail. Something for me to report back to Dr Rene van der Wal (dot.rural Natural Resource Conservation theme Lead) for the Red Kite project…

Today’s venue? The fantastic CatStrand ("contemporary performance and meeting space"), New Galloway…

Prof Dave Godden (dot.rural Healthcare theme Lead and Co-Director of the Centre for Rural Health, University of Aberdeen) delivered his talk entitled ‘Rural Emergencies: New technologies to aid First Responders’, linking in with our MIME (Managing Information in Medical Emergencies) project.

Quite appropriately, the audience included a Mountain Rescuer and two First Responders.

Dave outlined the changing landscape of healthcare providers, emphasising that its dot.rural (and other research centres) who strive to develop new technologies but it’s the policymakers who, ultimately, decipher the extent of their uptake.

The technology priorities to assist the first person on the scene of an accident: design a device to help decision support in real-time; use the device to monitor the patient’s status whilst being transferred; use the device to accurately collate, conserve and forward the ‘information trail’ gathered over the whole rescue period (using Natural Language Generation). In practice, the design of such a device raises issues of weight, portability and battery life, amongst others.

Dave's 'demo'…

The discussions that followed included…
- From the research point of view, dot.rural are thinking ~10-15 years ahead when designing such technologies.
- In any emergency, there’s a whole chain of people involved during the patient’s transfer. Thus, inconsistencies and mis-information in the information trail are inevitable. Therefore, the aim is to improve on the paper and pencil system currently used, often completed after the event, while considering environment-specific factors such as noisy, dangerous and wet scenarios.
- Accounts from the audience on the value of technology to support First Responders: “there are people who would be more likely to be first responders if some sort of tech was available to support”. Followed by caution from Dave over creating a false sense of security, with the need for basic skills and training not to be replaced.
- Concerns over signal coverage in remote and rural areas and the dependency of such devices on infrastructure.
- Issues of knowing how much data to send on to the respective hospital when monitoring the patient and the impact on information flow.
- Worries over whether the stick-on monitoring pads interfere with a defibrillator and can cope with exceptionally hairy people (they can!).
- Emphasis on the need for training, to support the uptake of devices, whatever the technology.
- Queries over the testing the device; Simulated data is being used in the R&D phase, before being used on real patients - ultimately, real data-sets are required.
- In paperless scenarios where First Responders are asked to justify their advice or actions, there could be a place for new technologies to help.
- Currently, there’s no formal feedback process so, once the patient has arrived at the hospital, mountain rescue teams/First Responders are not updated on their progress or the final outcome. Perhaps new technologies could be used to relay what this information, especially for future training purposes.

This was Dave’s last ever, public talk before retiring from academic and clinical work, later this month. As he embraces retirement and pens his long-awaited first novel, keep your eyes peeled for D. Godden on the shelves of all good book shops…


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