Launch of Hospital & Emergency Ambulance Link (HEAL) Pilot Project

The Ministry of Health (MOH), the National Computer Board (NCB), the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) are jointly launching the Hospital & Emergency Ambulance Link (HEAL) pilot ...

Singapore, 15 October 1998 | For Immediate Release

The Ministry of Health (MOH), the National Computer Board (NCB), the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) are jointly launching the Hospital & Emergency Ambulance Link (HEAL) pilot project. The HEAL system will exploit the use of wireless and information technologies to supplement the existing voice link between the ambulance and the Emergency Department of hospitals. The pilot phase of the project will begin in October 1998 and will be carried out at SGH and the ambulances from the Central Fire Station.

With the HEAL system in place, the public would be rendered emergency medical care of a higher quality. Advance data transmission with the system, enables faster handling of patients as they arrive at the Emergency Department. Patients would be handed over to hospital teams who have been alerted and are already prepared for their arrival. This in turn would speed up the delivery of emergency care for these patients.

The HEAL system will also assist the ambulance crew in their assessment and initial management of the patient. The crew would be able to provide speedier treatment to patients as the drug authorisation function in the HEAL system allows
additional treatment to be provided in the ambulance prior to arrival at the Emergency Department.

The HEAL system is developed and implemented by Singapore Network Services Pte Ltd. Upon the successful completion of the pilot phase, planning for nation-wide implementation of the HEAL system will be considered. Such nation-wide implementation may include all SCDF emergency ambulances and other government and restructured hospitals. When implemented, the HEAL System will be among the first systems in the world employing mobile data communication and information technologies to provide timely and comprehensive advance patient information between ambulances and hospitals.


For media queries, please contact:

Mr Vincent Phua,
Tel: 325-9174

About the Heal System

How Does Heal Work?

Functional Areas:

The HEAL functions are categorised into four modules:

a) Advance Patient Details Module captures essential patient demographic information and pertinent medical condition and conveys these to the doctors at the Emergency Department before the patient arrives at the hospital.

b) Ambulance Incident Management Module processes and archive records received from the ambulances.

c) Drug Request and Authorisation Module facilitates the ad hoc process of seeking approval from the doctor to administer certain special drugs to the patient.

d) Text Communications Module facilitates the exchange of ad hoc interactive messages between the ambulance and the hospital

Technology Employed

a) Communication link is based on publicly available wireless network

b) Mobile Computers/Notebooks with touch screens and user-friendly interfaces will be installed in the ambulance and hooked up to the vital signs equipment

c) Client-server technologies will be deployed at base station (SCDF) which will also be linked to the ambulance and hospital via the wireless network.

Development & Implementation Strategy

A Project Committee comprising representatives from the participating agencies was formed in 1996 to define the project scope and draw up the specifications.

Roles of Participating Agencies

MOH is the system owner of the HEAL system and will work with the other organisations during the pilot project and through its possible nation-wide deployment.

As the nation's IT authority, NCB spearheads the implementation of the IT2000 masterplan to transform Singapore into an intelligent island where IT is pervasive in every aspect of society. One of NCB's role is to work with the health care sector to promote and spearhead the innovative use of IT to enhance the quality and accessibility of healthcare services. As the operator of the nation's emergency ambulance service, SCDF will be the main user of the HEAL system. SGH is selected as the pilot test hospital to which electronic links will be established. The Department of Emergency Medicine, SGH, will be the other user of the HEAL system.

Role of Singapore Network Services Pte Ltd

Singapore Network Services Pte Ltd undertakes the full application, development and system integration services and ensures the successful deployment of the pilot phase of the HEAL system.

Technical Fact Sheet

Hospital & Emergency Ambulance Link

System Overview

Hospital & Emergency Ambulance Link (HEAL) is an emergency telemedicine project developed to enhance the communication between the ambulance crew and a hospital's Emergency Department (ED) physicians. HEAL allows the capture of essential patient bio-data and medical conditions by the ambulance and conveys them to the physician before the patient arrives at the hospital.

HEAL is a client-server solution comprising PC front-end applications for the ambulance mobile computer/notebook; an application and database server for the SCDF-HQ; and PC workstation for the hospital's ED and the SCDF Fire Station. The mobile computer/notebook at the ambulance is linked up to the vital signs and ECG equipment, enabling system to system interfaces for the transmission of patient vital signs and ECG waveforms to the hospital's ED. The electronic data link is done via the publicly available wireless data communications network from the ambulance mobile computer to the HEAL server at SCDF HQ; and the 64 kbps leased line link to the hospital's ED. The diagram below gives an overview of the pilot implementation of this project.

Application Overview

(a) HEAL comprises four major functional components:
- data capturing and reception at the mobile ambulance station and hospital and SCDF workstations;
- data transmission from the mobile station of the ambulance to the HEAL server at SCDF HQ through the wireless
- data monitoring at the workstation of the Emergency Department;
- data reviewing at all the workstations.

(b) General features of HEAL are:
- Capturing of patient's relevant bio-data and clinical information;
- Automated capturing and transmission of patient's vital signs and ECG data via the mobile station to a receiving hospital;
- Facilitate communication between ambulance crew and hospital's ED physicians;
- Comprehensive data management system.

FAQ List

1. What is the current system of conveying patient information from the ambulance crew to the Emergency Department? What are the inadequacies of the current system? How will the HEAL system improve these inadequacies?

Communications between the ambulance crew and the hospital's doctor are an essential component in the total care of patients, especially those seriously ill or injured patients whose initial care requires supervision by a doctor. Currently, the mode of communication between them is through a radio communication set. Sometimes, the communication link is interrupted due to heavy usage by other ambulance crews using the same communication network. To ensure that the ambulance crew receives continuous guidance from a senior doctor when required, the SCDF is adopting modern communications and information technologies to enhance the performance of Emergency Ambulance Service. This HEAL pilot project is part of that effort to enhance the monitoring of patient's vital signs and communications with the doctors of the hospital's Emergency Department.

2. How much time will it take the ambulance crew to key in the data required? Will this not therefore reduce the amount of time the AO can spend to treat the patient who needs their attention?

The HEAL system aims at minimising the time taken by the ambulance crew in operating various vital signs monitoring equipment and in communicating with the hospital. With the use of automatic vital signs monitoring equipment that links to the computer, time is saved when compared with conventional types of equipment. The system would now be able to automatically alert the ambulance crew if the patient's condition were to deteriorate and requires attention and intervention by the crew. The computer system is carefully configured to capture important clinical data and time required for data inputis therefore minimal. This enables the crew to focus their attention on the patient. Selection of canned messages provided will simplify the sending of the messages.

3. Will there be further changes made to the system?

After the three-month pilot run, the data collected will be evaluated. Assessment will be based on reliability, performance of the system and user acceptance such as smooth integration with the ambulance workflow. A nation-wide project will be considered after the results of the pilot project are available. The lessons learnt, additional functions and hardware will be incorporated for the possible nation-wide implementation.