Toughbooks are already being used by over 400 paramedics across more than 40 paramedic teams. By the end of 2006, more than 200 Toughbooks will have been rolled out to 1000 paramedics across around 100 teams.
The Toughbooks are used primarily in tablet PC form and run a software program called VACIS (Victorian Ambulance Clinical Information System), designed and developed by MAS to assist paramedics by simplifying the process of capturing patient data for further analysis and reporting.
The Toughbooks also hold information to assist paramedics while they work, including clinical practice guidelines, animated work instructions, training materials and the eMIMS electronic drug database.
Victoria’s Metropolitan Ambulance Service uses Panasonic Toughbooks for mobile patient care.
With MAS paramedics handling a quarter of a million emergency cases a year, it is essential that the equipment it uses is reliable and able to withstand a harsh working environment.
The paramedic environment is pretty tough, and can involve the Toughbooks being used in a range of situations. The Toughbooks could be loaded on the back of a stretcher, thrown in the back of an ambulance, or covered in fluids.
Built to military specifications, the Toughbook is able to withstand the shocks, bumps and drops it faces in an emergency services environment.
During the notebook selection process, the Toughbooks were presented to paramedics from various branches in focus groups. The Toughbook was the clear winner in the technical evaluations and from paramedic feedback. Paramedics liked the rugged features and large screen of the Toughbook. Metropolitan Ambulance Service also liked the fact that it was not compromising technical performance for ruggedisation.
Prior to the use of Toughbooks, paramedics had to fill out a paper-based patient care record in freehand and the ability to analyse data was limited. Metropolitan Ambulance Service has teams of people going through each record, pulling out information such as cardiac, trauma and drug information. It is labour intensive and it can only get a limited range of information.
With VACIS, Metropolitan Ambulance Service can get up to date information, enabling it to produce reports, which give it a detailed view of the work MAS does from a clinical perspective. By producing more detailed reports such as for trauma and clinical intervention, it can determine how, for example, it should target future Paramedic training.
There is nobody else that has this level of data available for such high-level research and analysis. Currently, Paramedics using VACIS provide the hospital with a paper copy of the patient care record, which is printed in the ambulance or at the hospital using the 802.11 wireless and Bluetooth features of the Toughbook.
802.11 wireless is also used to synchronise the Toughbook with the central VACIS database. An enhancement being developed will enable the patient care information to be wirelessly transferred directly to the hospital emergency department information system.