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Radios are a lifeline for medical and aviation crews

Throughout every STARS mission, crews must stay in touch with a range of contacts — from the STARS Emergency Link Centre communications specialists who dispatch and support the mission, to first responders on the ground who provide preliminary patient information and landing zone support, to the doctors and nurses who prepare to receive patients.

Maintaining clear and reliable communication with these partners is essential.

Across Western Canada, STARS is undertaking significant upgrades to our fleet of helicopters and the technology within.

Historically, emergency agencies such as STARS had to build and maintain their own radio infrastructure. In addition to this being a costly duplicated effort, it was often challenging — if not impossible — to communicate between different agencies’ radios and frequencies. Imagine the difficulty when needing to communicate and coordinate with fire, ground ambulance and police with each on a different frequency.

To address this, governments are increasingly taking the step of building shared province- wide radio networks for first responders. For STARS, this means having access to leading- edge radio infrastructure which allows seamless communication with our emergency response allies. A clearer form of communication will help STARS and our allies to better serve Western Canadians.

To access these provincial radio networks, however, STARS must upgrade our own radio equipment – both aircraft-mounted and those worn on the belts of our crews. This process is under way, and STARS will soon be ready to access the next- generation radio networks alongside our provincial counterparts.

In everything STARS does, the goal is to best support the next patient in need. It’s technological innovation like this that benefits everyone who lives, works and plays across the Prairies.

Whether it’s in the air or on the ground, if you put the right tools in the hands of the best talent, you won’t just save time, you’ll save lives.

 

Communication innovation

Cindy Seidl, lead clinical officer for STARS, monitors the vitals of a mock patient during a test flight as info is transmitted wirelessly to ground stations for physicians in real-time.

Switching our phones to airplane mode as we depart on a flight has become an established part of our travel routine.

If a promising trial project at STARS takes off, being disconnected during a flight may become a thing of the past for our air medical crews.

This past summer, a STARS helicopter took flight over the foothills of Alberta. A nurse and a physician monitored the vital signs of the patient onboard. What set this flight apart from any other is that the nurse was on the helicopter while the physician was on the ground, in front of a computer monitor.

Thanks to a groundbreaking partnership with aviation and medical equipment providers, STARS is the first operator in North America to transmit real-time medical readings from monitors and ventilators while in flight to stations on the ground.

As the trial continues, STARS will test integrating transport physicians through a virtual presence during missions, allowing them to monitor the patient’s condition (via encrypted data transfer) and provide guidance on treatment throughout the transport.

STARS’ clinical leadership team will assess the results of this trial to determine whether this approach becomes standard practice across STARS bases — just one of many ongoing innovations to ensure we make the highest level of care available to patients in our communities.