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Partnership to advance ambulance dispatch times

Media release

Curtin University with St John Ambulance Western Australia (St John) have joined forces to investigate strategies to progress the accuracy and effectiveness of the State’s emergency medical dispatch system.

Funding has been provided by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to improve ambulance dispatch to time-critical emergencies throughout metropolitan and regional Western Australia.

Professor Judith Finn, Co-Director of the Pre-hospital, Resuscitation and Emergency Care Research Unit (PRECRU) in Curtin’s Faculty of Health Sciences said the partnership would examine the current emergency dispatch system and how it identified time-critical emergency conditions such as cardiac arrest, acute coronary syndrome, stroke and respiratory distress.

“Presently, time-critical emergency conditions are not always identified as such and how this happens needs to be better understood,” Professor Finn said.

“The project will look at what communication tools are required to help prioritise conditions and the economic implications of calls lodged incorrectly as time-critical emergencies.”

Professor Finn said the project would also examine the emergency Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS) used by St John and audio tapes of 000 emergency calls handled by the State Operations Centre.

“One of the anticipated outcomes of this study will be how St John can more effectively educate the public about what information should be provided to the medical emergency dispatch call-taker,” Professor Finn said.

“This data will be used to build policy and further develop structured call-taking.

“Examining the accuracy and performance of the MPDS will focus on call prioritisation and resource allocation to time-critical emergencies.

“This will establish what efficiencies are needed to be incorporated, or alternatively, if other options are required regarding ambulance dispatch.” Professor Finn said.

St John Clinical Services Director, Professor Ian Jacobs said the study would take an evidence-based approach to analyse the efficiency of the dispatch system, ensuring St John gets the right resources to the right patient in the right time.

“We know that the dispatch system has a tendency to over prioritise so that an ambulance may go on a priority one to a job that sometimes does not warrant it,” Professor Jacobs said. 

“With this study we will look at dispatch accuracy, stakeholder opinions, linguistic analysis, systems modelling and economic evaluation.”

The strong alliance between PRECRU and St John Ambulance Western Australia, unites health service researchers, clinicians, consumer representatives and ambulance service industry providers, to improve the accuracy of emergency medical dispatch and overall performance in ambulance services throughout the State.