Emergency medical specialists triaging ambulance patients at the front end of an emergency call is one thing, but using a computer to help dispatchers do the triaging is, well, something else.
The emergency medical service in Yokohama, Japan, apparently is at the “something else” end of the spectrum.
Recently, Japanese researchers completed a study that looked at the effectiveness of emergency dispatchers using computer-assisted triage to help prioritize ambulance calls. For the study, which began Oct. 1, 2008, Yokohama dispatchers employed the triage system on 68,692 calls over a six-month period.
When calls came in, dispatchers were instructed to obtain information on each patient's consciousness level, breathing status, walking ability, position and complexion. A computer algorithm then chewed on the data and spit out a patient-risk assessment. Ambulance dispatches were prioritized accordingly, said the study published in the online journal BMC Emergency Medicine.
“If the estimated life-threat risk was higher than 10%, the probability that a patient faced a risk of dying was recognized as very high and categorized as category A+,” according to the authors of the study.
While the system showed promise, the study outcomes suggest developers still have work to do to perfect its usefulness. When researchers compared the computer-assisted triage system's assessments with patients' actual conditions upon arrival at the hospital, they found the algorithm had a “moderate level of accuracy” in predicting life-threat risks.