A pilot project aimed at getting urgent medical care to patients more quickly is proving so effective at better outcomes, it’s been extended.

The program, dubbed “doc in a box,” sees transport physicians work shifts in the STARS Emergency Link Centre (ELC), allowing them to make real- time decisions about critical care. It’s been called a game-changer by the emergency communications specialists who take the calls.

In the past, transport physicians were not typically at a base while on-call. Instead, when the ELC received a request for STARS, the communications specialist would relay the message to the on-call transport physician and the air medical crew (AMC) on shift.

Since January 2021, transport physicians are inside the ELC three days a week for an eight-hour shift. This change has seen a significant

timesaving for many patients, often up to 30 minutes or more, as there is less time spent on information transfer, getting a doctor to the base, or waiting to hear from EMS on the scene. We have already seen benefits for patients facing critical medical incidents, such as heart attacks and strokes, in which patients require early intervention and minutes matter, said Dr. Jamin Mulvey, medical director for STARS in Calgary.

This also improves our access to patient medical records and provides real-time accuracy and support, said Dr. Mulvey.

“We were very busy over the summer, and this project brought doctors closer to the mission and gave us a better understanding as to what was happening on the ground at the scene,” he said. “We gather the information rapidly from EMS, bystanders and others and then give advice to people. It’s quite dynamic.”


Some examples of calls this pilot project has supported include:
  • Multiple drownings
  • Backcountry injuries
  • Horse-related injuries in non-vehicle accessible locations
  • Plane crash
  • Multiple COVID-19 inter-facility transfers
  • Dispatch to ski hill for a pediatric head trauma within about 15 seconds of call arrival