Rwanda: New ambulance tech could help save lives in Africa
Experts are trialling a new electronic system that could speed hospital transfers and help reduce the likelihood of people in developing countries dying unnecessarily from injuries caused by accidents or violence.
Every year in Rwanda, injury causes 9% of deaths with 47% of these occurring before patients can reach hospital.Like many Low- and Middle-income Countries (LMIC), Rwanda experiences long delays in getting patients to hospital as all communication between patients, ambulances, and hospitals are done using multiple phone-calls.
In order to overcome these difficulties, a local software firm, Rwanda Build Program (RWBuild) has designed 912Rwanda, a novel electronic tool which regularly collects information from hospitals on availability of staff and equipment, and from the ambulance crew on patient status. The system then uses this information to match the patient with the nearest hospital that can accept them.
NIHR RIGHT4:Rwanda912: Use of an innovative electronic communications platform to improve pre-hospital transport of injured people in Rwanda, is backed by more than £3 million funding from the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Research and Innovation for Global Health Transformation (RIGHT) programme.
University of Birmingham and University of Rwanda researchers will partner with colleagues at the Ministry of Health, RWBuild and the Universities of Global Health Equity, York, Aberdeen, and Utah to finalise development of the 912Rwanda system and explore its real-time capabilities.
This cutting-edge study will test the effectiveness, cost, and delivery of 912Rwanda in two different settings: Kigali, which is predominantly urban, and Musanze District which is predominately rural. The trial aims to maximise opportunities for transferring the electronic tool to other LMICs with developed or developing ambulance systems.
Justine Davies, Professor of Global Health Research at the University of Birmingham, commented: “Injuries in LMICs are common and their number is expected to increase, but death and disability after injury can be substantially reduced if people reach healthcare facilities in a timely manner.”
Jean Claude Byiringiro, Dean of the Medical School at University of Rwanda said: “Understanding how we can reduce the time it takes to get injured patients to hospital is critical to saving lives. This project could play a key role in developing similar solutions in countries facing the same sort of problems.”
Rob Rickard of RWBuild commented: “We are excited to move this project forward. This emergency software decision solution will ensure pre-hospital patients reach the ‘right’ hospital and help reduce the ambulance total journey time. I look forward to working with our partners on this project. We can provide the best strategies and processes with these great partners as they prove its capability.”
After the researchers finalise development of 912Rwanda’s algorithms and user interfaces, they will develop training materials and conduct staff training, before conducting mock field-trials and rolling out the intervention.