Challenges in Today’s Ambulance Operations

Today, many hospitals and health-care institutions are searching ways to improve survival rates for their emergency rooms. Most of the facilities used by current ambulances are below ideal. In fact, it has been reported that a considerable number of in-vehicle medical staff is still relying on radio systems to communicate with their hospital colleagues, which often fails to provide detailed communications so that hospital staff is frequently less-than-prepared when receiving the victim/patient.

Some medical institutions have begun using off-the-shelf computer systems to try to solve this problem but the benefit is limited due to several reasons. First, these commercially available systems are not designed for emergent operations. Secondly, these commercial computing devices are based on mainstream operating systems and built for multi-purposes. They usually conduct below-average performance for certain critical functions required for medical professionals especially in harsh environments. A practical way to deal with this life-threatening risk is to implement an intelligent and robust vehicle cloud system in ambulances. This document is going to describe the ideal system for enabling intelligent ambulances and the type of technologies necessary for the implementations.

Functions Needed for a Mobile Medical Solution

A rugged mobile platform with flexible and scalable Intel x86 microprocessors and multiple peripheral connectivity is the economical solution to conduct emergent medical missions such as telemedicine, video-communication, treatment preparations and clinical image transmissions. These computers must be able to perform critical functions including:

Digitalized Measurement Results

Most ambulances are installed with external sensors for heart beat rates, blood pressure, temperature and/or other devices. If these sensing devices are connected to a smart computing system on the vehicle, all these measurement results can be sent to the hospital for early assessments and preparations while avoiding duplicated testing procedures, as timing is very crucial in surgery operations. This requires the computer system to be equipped with wireless network connectivity, such as 3G or WiFi.

Mobile Surveillance

If surveillance cameras are installed, the situations in the ambulance can be monitored by the hospital control center. This may also provide critical information to doctors or physicians for preparations or serve as future reference. Therefore, it is ideal that this intelligent vehicle computing system is designed with PoE (Power-Over-Ethernet) ports for IP cameras.

Peripheral Connectivity

Mobile Clinical Assistant (MCA) and driver’s monitor are getting more widely used by ambulances of well-established and advanced hospitals. These devices usually come with a dock or cradle station for recharging or desktop operations. However, the docks or cradles have to be recharged as well. Therefore, it would be highly convenient if a smart in-vehicle computing system can connect with a car battery to provide power supply for these devices. Since medical staff is often in contact with hospital or other related personnel, the onboard system must provide microphone and speaker outputs for voice call and recording purposes as some tasks require.

GPS Route Management

GPS is necessary in avoiding time wasted on searching for locations and paths. On the other hand, GPS helps hospital staff keep track of where the ambulances are.

Driver Behavior Data

Ambulances are the front-line unit to deal with critical missions. In case of controversies, the vehicle computing system shall be designed with ODB-II interface to retrieve the data log of driver behaviors.

Lanner’s Answer for Mobile Medical

Lanner’s LVC-5000-B3 is a highly rugged and integrated vehicle computing platform built for mission critical applications. Built with Intel® Core™ i7 CPU, LVC-5000-B3 is capable of delivering high processing power and graphic presence required for video-communication and telemedicine functions so that detailed information can be conveyed with very low system latency.

To enable cloud operations for ambulances, wireless network is necessary. LVC-5000-B3 offers wireless network in both 3G and WiFi connectivity so that patient data can be linked a MCA and enables the medical tablet to transfer data to hospital staff. For monitoring purpose, LVC-5000-B3 is designed with 4 Ethernet LAN ports with PoE (Power-over-Ethernet) capability. With PoE ports, IP cameras may be utilized for real time monitoring of the conditions inside ambulances. This allows the hospital staff to be aware of what is happening in the ambulances.

Since ambulances are the on-site medical unit, I/O ports for external devices are required to conduct medical operations. LVC-5000-B3 comes with 2 serial ports for in-vehicle measuring instruments to conduct early assessments and preparations. In addition, LVC-5000-B3 offers GPS sensor which can save tremendous amount of time in route navigation during time-urgencies. The GPS function also allows the dispatching hospital to keep track of where their ambulances are. With USB ports and power input/output, LVC-5000-B3 allows connection with MCA, driver monitor docks as well as car battery for recharging or transmission purposes.

Regarding audio support, LVC-5000-B3 provides Mic In/Line Out ports for sound transmitting devices like microphone and speaker to conduct voice calls or recording tasks. In case of controversies, there is an ODB-II interface to retrieve data logs of driver behaviors.

With powerful processor and handy I/O design, LVC-5000-B3 is surely suitable for mission critical applications like fleet management, vehicle control and police vehicles.