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St John Ambulance Western Australia and Sierra Wireless are improving access to patient records thanks to an Electronic Patient Care Records System. Kate O'Flaherty reports

Access all areas

St John Ambulance Western Australia (WA) and Sierra Wireless are improving patient care with an electronic records system (ePCR) and supporting technology.

The electronic patient care records system, which is the first solution of its kind in Australia, is accompanied by other significant technology upgrades to the 200-strong fleet of ambulances and improvements to the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system.

St John Ambulance has been serving the Western Australia and the Northern Territory for more than 100 years, providing first aid training and care within the region.

The ePCR system replaces paper forms used by paramedics to record patient information, improving access for medical staff as well as allowing paramedics to input critical data in-transit using an Apple iPad. 


‘We wanted the iPads in the hands of each paramedic and to ensure every ambulance was configured, so that any team member could jump into any vehicle, and their iPad would just work,’ says Ashley Morris, technical services director at St John Ambulance WA.

The tablets required connectivity to communicate with the CAD and ePCR, but St John Ambulance was hesitant to use 3G Sims as it did not want an iPad to be tied to a specific vehicle.

‘We did not want to sign inflexible data contracts that would cost the organisation even when units were not in use,’ Morris explains, adding: ‘Nor did we want to have to manage more than 850 3G accounts.’

Therefore, the firm decided it would be more cost-effective to create a Wi-Fi hotspot around each ambulance, using the Wi-Fi-only iPad. This was cheaper than the Wi-Fi+3G version and reduced the number of Sims needed.

An ultra-rugged Sierra Wireless AirLink in-vehicle gateway was used to provide a reliable in-vehicle Wi-Fi network connection. The AirLink gateways are intelligent and high-speed for advanced vehicle tracking and mobile internet connectivity.

The device is a regular Sim with wireless technology inside, but ‘is like a Wi-Fi hotspot on steroids,’ says Bryan O’Flaherty-Wills, director of product management at Sierra Wireless.

‘The solution is a very straightforward connectivity solution using Wi-Fi,’ says Wills. ‘But what’s interesting is what’s underneath the hood.’

AirLink devices report real-time status and actionable event notifications, to ensure time-sensitive information is delivered immediately for better decision-making and overall system efficiency. The routers are powered by Sierra Wireless ALEOS intelligence, which works in conjunction with the AirVantage Management Service to enable customers to remotely deploy and monitor an entire fleet of devices.

Built to withstand harsh environments, the AirLink is designed for use in applications where reliability and security are essential. Once deployed, AirLink devices stay online, so they are ideal for mission-critical applications.


St John Ambulance chose the AirLink devices after evaluating three device options over a six-month period. ‘The Sierra Wireless units just worked,’ Morris says. ‘The other units we trialled had all sorts of teething problems, but we installed the Sierra unit and it just did what we expected.’

‘There were more drivers than ambulances so it was difficult to manage data and they wanted a solution that would be flexible for them,’ adds Wills. ‘That’s where the device comes in, connected through a private network - Telstra. That’s connected to the St John Ambulance and then the side of the vehicle is connected through Wi-Fi.’

St John Ambulance can also use the web application to remotely troubleshoot and configure devices, says Morris, adding: ‘This feature is certainly an advantage for us.’

In addition, St John Ambulance is deploying a mobile data terminal system, ‘AmbiCAD’. The system delivers built-in satellite navigation for vehicle tracking; large screens for increased functionality; the capability to operate an exclusive radio network; 3G coverage where the radio network does not reach; and Wi-Fi connectivity when at the station.

The data terminals also needed 3G Sims. St John Ambulance was able to remove the Sims from the mobile terminals and connect them to the AirLink devices, creating a single communications hub in
each vehicle.

Consolidate technology

‘All of this means we’ve been able to consolidate technology from an account point of view, effectively halving the number of Sim cards in the fleet,’ Morris says, adding: ‘The AmbiCAD is built into the dash, so it’s hard to get to. Using the AirLink devices makes the Sim card more accessible, and it allows us to put AmbiCAD behind a firewall for added security.’

St John Ambulance has additional plans to connect defibrillators through the AirLink devices and send data back to base before a patient arrives at the hospital. The infrastructure is already in place through the iPad and connectivity offered by Sierra Wireless to continually build out in-vehicle applications, helping to provide better patient care.

‘Our products are designed to get connected and stay connected,’ Wills says. ‘We have intelligence that monitors the connection and if a device detects there is a problem it will react in a certain way.’



Danish police add 3G coverage to TETRA

When the Danish National Police migrated on to a single nationwide TETRA network, they still had to unify disparate analogue systems and they needed a reliable in-vehicle 3G connectivity solution. 

The Danish National Police worked with Sierra Wireless and its system integrator partner Daimler Mobile to implement a rugged Sierra Wireless AirLink Raven XE 3G gateway to ensure reliable performance in the harsh field environments where law enforcement vehicles regularly operate.

Serving the 5.4 million inhabitants of Denmark, The Danish National Police houses the SINE Agency, which was responsible for migrating the country’s emergency communications to the TETRA network. 

A successful transition to the TETRA standard for its communications system required measuring the performance and coverage of the TETRA network in every corner of Denmark. 

The initial choice of pen-sized USB modems used to provide advanced 3G GSM/UMTS connectivity to in-vehicle probes were failing. They dislodged when driving through rough terrain, could not provide a strong enough wireless connection and were a drain on CPU power.

The AirLink Raven XE 3G gateway is backed by a powerful platform and processing environment that provides remote monitoring and the two-way communications required for commercial mobile or portable network connectivity applications. 

Built to rugged specifications for the harshest environmental conditions, the solution provided secure, reliable connectivity through Sierra Wireless’s ALEOS embedded intelligence for feature-rich operations. 

It also allowed the police to deploy a quick solution for the integration and enables minimal power consumption through remote control provided by AirLink Device Management tools.

The gateway solved the CPU issues and when combined with a roof-mounted antenna extended 3G coverage even in remote areas. The upgraded mobile network coverage measurement system afforded device flexibility with support of numerous accessories to extend functionality.

The AirLink Raven XE used in combination with advanced 3G cellular networks provides a complimentary data solution to the TETRA radio system used for critical voice communication.


Written by Wireless magazine
Wireless magazine

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