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AMBULANCE
Mobile unit for healthcare provision via telematics support

Contact: Dr. Sotiris Pavlopoulos Institute of Communication and Computer Systems, National Technical University of Athens 9 Iroon Polytechniou Str., 15773 Athens, Greece Tel: +30 1 7722429, Fax: +30 1 7722431 E-mail: spav@biomed.ntua.gr
Web Site: http://www.biomed.ntua.gr

1. Description

The aim of project is the design and development of a mobile/portable medical device usable for medical emergencies in European Countries that allows telediagnosis, remote supervision, and teleconsultation of mobile health care providers by specialized physicians located in key positions or sites. Such services constitute to an absolute requirement, especially in cases of heavily injured victims of accidents, resulting from increased population mobilization within the European Union. The proposed device allows the acquisition and transmission of critical biosignals as well as the acquisition and transmission of images of the patient, that will allow for a visual inspection. Interactivity between mobile health providers and specialized physicians will be enhanced by the bidirectional transmission of voice and telepointing/whiteboarding information. In order to maximize the amount of information available at the hospital site, the system can be linked to HIS and PACS where available. Communications between the mobile unit and the hospital based unit is delivered through GSM digital cellular communications system, a feasible and already broadly accepted standard in Europe, thus ensuring the maximum interoperability and portability of the proposed device. System prototypes were installed in test sites (ambulance services) in Sweden, Greece and in Cyprus, and their performance in terms of technical and functional specifications has been validated.

2. Applicable technologies

Databases, knowledge processing, communication technology, hypertext technologies, multimedia technology, client/server architecture.

3. Potential users

Clients visiting the health care organisations, patients, visitors of hospitals, consumers at home, company personnel, health care institutions, doctors, para-medical institutions.

4. Benefits to the users

The European citizen will be informed about opportunities to make decisions about his own health, about differences in health throughout Europe, about treatment and insurances. The multimedia multilingual citizens advisory system - M2-BBS will be a tool to bridge the gap between the existing demand of the European citizen and the professionals, such as doctors, psychologists, but also insurance companies, health services, hospitals. The European industries, espacially the telecommunication industry, can benefit strongly from the input of large amount and large diversity of data to be collected from the use of the M2-BBS. This will be also a push for health insurance companies, hospitals to change their services into a more efficient and effective way.

5. Evaluation of the results

In the first months of the project life-time, the system architecture and design tasks was completed. The system has a very modular structure, is based on industrial standards and conforms with the specifications for open systems. Based on these design specifications and architecture, an alpha functional demonstrator was built. The system is based on a Johnson and Johnson portable biosignal monitor connected to the AMBULANCE portable processing and communication chassis. Imaging tasks are performed using a SONY CCD camera and a FPS-60 Frame grabber. Signal transmission is performed via the GSM network using a SIEMENS M1 GSM adapter. Specific attention was paid to the user interface design both for the mobile unit and the Hospital consultation (base) unit.

Following the system integration workpackage, the verification phase was during which the demonstrator was validated on a small-scale process mainly performed at the Greek pilot sites (AMC & Medica) and complemented by the tests performed in Sweden, Italy and Cyprus. During this phase, and following user suggestions, adjustments were made to the system and a beta-functional demonstrator was built. The results of the validation phase were recorded, analyzed and reported. During the next phase, a large demonstration has been initiated and is currently performed. Demonstration activities include extensive use of the prototype within all participating pilot sites according to the demonstration scenario defined by the medical team, and presentation of the system to additional potential users. Demonstration activities are expected to complete by the end of 1997 and the results will be reported in the corresponding deliverable.

The task of exploiting the system has been commenced during the last reporting period and has been continued through the present reporting period. As a result of such activities, a detailed market survey has been performed and results were reported. Furthermore, the consortium has been discussing several exploitation scenaria based on an initial exploitation plan prepared during the reporting period. Initial discussions with the European branch of Physiocontrol, a leader in emergency and Ambulatory equipment has resulted in an agreement to combine the AMBULANCE system with a defibrillator the company is currently designing to maximize the potential benefits of emergency telemedicine. Presently, an exploitation plan for the AMBULANCE project is under preparation and is expected to be available by October 97. In the context of exploitation activities, additional system test users are being sought; explanatory contacts have already been made with other organizations to verify the system. Furthermore, the consortium has produced a project newsletter that has been distributed to individuals and companies in the field. Finally, a number of presentations in conferences and workshops have been given and will be more intensive after the demonstration results become available.