The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) have always been industry leaders when it comes to embracing innovation in order to provide the best possible patient care.
Back in 2016 they began developing ARCEMS which was designed to improve the way that patient incidents and auditing those incidents is carried out. This was developed further in partnership with Surge in 2019 to create a tablet version in order to give the solution mobility.
Moving Away From Paper
Prior to the development of ARCEMS, GNAAS had paper patient records and a secondary system where operational data was captured, which hadn’t been updated since 2012. Due to the ages of the old system it created IT issues for the team. Clive James, Head of IT at GNAAS explains, “Due to its age we had to keep rolling back Adobe Acrobat Reader to version 8, from 2007, because every time Adobe updated it broke our old system and the ability to print the PDFs.”
This way of working was also causing issues around compliance for the team. GNAAS HEMS Paramedic Tim West said, “In the past, the audit work used to require someone manually sifting through paper records and inputting data into a spreadsheet which took an extensive period of time.”
Tim also commented that by having a paper-based system it meant they had to “have a physical store of paper records, which are expensive to keep and take up a lot of space.”
As the team at GNAAS wanted to move away from the inefficiencies that came with their old system they began developing ARCEMS with a view that it would a) digitise their patient records and b) improve their compliance and clinical governance by making the data easier to input, retrieve and report on.
ARCEMS is an EPRF and compliance solution which combines both the patient data and operational data together into one single system. In 2019 GNAAS began working with Newcastle based Surge who took over the development of the software which included the launch of a native iOS app for use on the crew’s iPads. This allows the crew to capture and input patient data whilst on-the-go, even in areas with no internet connection with no data loss.
As no two missions are the same it varies how much time the HEMS paramedics have to input patient data into ARCEMS but being able to use the iPad app wherever they are is particularly helpful. Tim West gave two examples of when the mobility of ARCEMS is put into practice: “If we are flying 35 minutes from the otherside of the country, one of us will input patient records into ARCEMS during the flight while the other paramedic monitors the patient. Similarly in situations where we arrive on a scene and aren’t required, we will sit at the scene and type up the notes. We can then print this off and give it to the crew dealing with the patient so they have a record of our interaction with the patient.”
Looking at the old way of working versus the new way with ARCEMS, it’s clear to see a wide range of benefits for GNAAS. Firstly the move to digital records means they will be able to save on physical paper records and the storage costs associated with them.
It has also helped reduce complexity for the team by bringing everything together. “It integrates the mission management aspects and provides a single platform to run the entire operation from,” said Tim.
Tim also commented that, “One of the other best things is the ability to be able to audit really quickly as the data is there on tap, so as a clinician it helps save us a lot of time. ARCEMS has made quality assurance a less arduous task and has helped with compliance. For example the Medicine Management feature keeps a record of expiry dates for drugs and consumables and alerts us when items are coming up to expiry or have expired. This helps with the compliance and patient safety side of things.”
From an IT perspective Clive noted that, “ARCEMS is a much more supportable and manageable solution to what we had previously which hadn’t been updated since 2012. Now we have a system which is current, maintained, easier to support, more secure and it adapts to current software much more easily.”
The day-to-day support provided by the Surge Service Desk team has also been a big benefit to the team at GNAAS. “We have a good relationship with Surge and any mission critical issues we’ve had are dealt with in a rapid manner,” said Tim West. The smaller day-to-day issues are also being dealt with in a timely manner, “We’ve had a few cases recently open which have been resolved quickly by the team at Surge,” said Clive.
Looking Ahead With Pride
Understandably the team at GNAAS are incredibly proud of ARCEMS and the journey it has come on since 2016 but they’re not standing still. They’re looking to continuously improve and enhance the system in order to provide the best levels of patient care.
Summing up Clive said, “There’s blood sweat and tears gone into this over the years and it’s great to see it being used by other air ambulance services too. We’ve just authorised the next round of development for features we need so we’re really energised and want to see ARCEMS push forward.”
The Great North Air Ambulance Service are a registered charity and receive revenue from sales of ARCEMS which helps them to continue to provide a helicopter emergency service for the North of England, serving North Yorkshire, the North-East, Cumbria and Scottish borders.