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Alberta rides on CAD & mobile for health care

Canadian province consolidates regional public health service organisations and integrates delivery of health care and emergency medical services

While a strong geospatial foundation is essential, visualisation is not enough to solve the complex problems facing public safety agencies today. Data must be operational, as part of the workflows tied to specific challenges.

In 2009, the Canadian province of Alberta consolidated nine regional public health service organisations into one, called the Alberta Health Services (AHS). At the same time, management of emergency medical services (EMS), which previously had been the responsibility of 35 different municipalities, was transferred to the provincial level to integrate the delivery of healthcare and EMS to Alberta’s 3.7 million residents. “To do that, I needed a good common platform,” says Jim Garland, executive director of Alberta Health Services. “And we went with Intergraph for that.”

One system, many uses
AHS replaced 35 EMS authorities with three regional EMS dispatch centres and used Intergraph’s I/CAD and mobile technologies to provide a common operating picture to dispatchers in all three regions. The platform enables AHS dispatchers to better locate callers more quickly and dispatch the closest ambulance.

“Intergraph allows us to use a variety of information — street addresses, latitude and longitude and other data — to verify the caller’s location to an exact pin on the map,” adds Garland. “We are able to more accurately locate callers than before.”

Screenshot of Alberta’s EMS website

The new system prevents blind spots that could happen in the previous system, where a call might come into one dispatch centre, but from a location that is more easily reached by another region’s EMS crew. The system also increases efficiency of inter-facility transfers, when a patient must be moved from one medical facility to another. It used to take dozens of radio transmissions to accomplish these transfers, but with the installation of mobile data terminals that access the GIS data in ambulances, the information is exchanged more quickly and easily. AHS also implemented Intergraph’s Business Intelligence software to integrate critical analysis and performance monitoring into its workflow. The software enables AHS to track response times to calls overall, as well as at regional, municipal and individual levels.

Faster access to information
Data is stored in a common provincial repository, which is optimised for reporting historical and near real-time operational information. Dashboards are easy for users at all levels to configure and manage, providing immediate access to information about response times, resource usage and factors that impact performance. Web intelligence supports mobile access and self-serve reporting for managers across the province.

Using the Business Intelligence software, AHS has reduced the time for various resource analysis tasks from hours to just minutes. This ultimately will lead to better response time and reduced costs. The solution also helps maintain accurate records for government reporting requirements. This allows AHS to more easily justify expenditures and maintain citizen support.

With costs in excess of C$1 million to operate a single 24-hour ambulance, efficient use of resources is critical. AHS anticipates that business intelligence will help avoid or defer millions of dollars in expenditures. As a public entity, AHS has to uphold high transparency and accountability standards and Garland says business intelligence is helping the authority increase confidence by assessing and communicating performance.