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Ambulance service uses visual analytics

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The South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) is using Qlik Sense and QlikView across the organisation to visualise its data for better understanding of where its ambulances are and need to be at any given time.
Bringing the reality to life by visualising vehicles on maps on screens within its command centers, the Trust has a more accurate view of vehicle performance and locations, helping it to identify where improvements can be made to get its patients crucial care more efficiently.
From 78 sites serving Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire, SCAS was formed in 2006 following a merger of four ambulance trusts. An emergency operations organisation with 3 000 staff serving over 4,6-million people, the Trust has three main functions; emergency response to 999 calls, providing help for NHS 111 calls, and running the non-emergency patient transport service.
The Trust handles around 1,75-million calls per year and collects data on all ‘jobs’ – from the moment the call comes into the control center – how it is handled, where each of its 607 ambulances is going, the time it takes to get to patients, and time it takes to get to the hospital.
Under contractual obligation with 16 hospitals in the local area to show all functions are meeting government requirements, SCAS’s Business Intelligence (BI) team is using Qlik NPrinting to pull the required reports together – a task that used to take two and a half hours a day but now takes five minutes. With the time saved, the team now has the capacity to analyse these reports and other data for insights that help to support colleagues and provide higher quality services.
Previously only accessible by the BI team, the Trust wanted to put data into the hands of colleagues across the organisation. Staff from each team have access to the latest information themselves through Qlik and can see how SCAS is performing directly – without needing to go to the BI team to ask them to pull reports for them.
Trust executives now have high level information to review performance against national standards and operations, while Directors can measure variation across the organisation. Area Managers and Team Leaders meanwhile can drill down into the performance of a team of staff.
Most recently, the Trust, continuing its relationship with Qlik Elite Solution Provider Differentia Consulting, has purchased Qlik Sense and has built a unique vehicle performance and monitoring app, which the board can use to see the data represented as visually as possible.
The app brings to life the Trust’s data, with vehicle view maps showing, in real-time, the location of each ambulance, including specialist resources. These maps are displayed on screens in offices so the operations team can decide which vehicle to dispatch based on location, availability and suitability to patient needs.
“It’s really best to think of us as a logistics company with a very special cargo looking to improve the experience and outcome of every single patient,” says Vivienne Parsons, specialist business analyst for BI at SCAS. “Yes, we’re an NHS Trust, but our job really, is to get our vital ambulance crews, vehicles – and therefore patients – from A to B as quickly and efficiently as possible. In some life-threatening situations, saving vital seconds, along with the care and expertise of our ambulance staff and volunteers, really can save lives.
“We have to provide hospitals in the local area with daily status reports that show how well we’re doing this. Reporting used to take up the bulk of our time – especially on a Monday, where we’d be pulling weekend data too. It would take so long that we just didn’t have the time to actually go into the data and get insights from it. If there were any issues, it was practically impossible to see what they were or why.
“With Qlik Sense, we can be more geographical in terms of mapping, pairing population areas with dispatch locations. It has really brought our information to life. One of the operations team recently said to me, ‘all the little questions I used to ask you, I can now see for myself’ – that’s exactly the result we wanted,” continues Parsons.
“The pressure is on for any NHS organisation to show it is performing to the best of its ability – always making the most of limited resources,” says David Bolton, senior director of market development for public sector and healthcare at Qlik. “At SCAS, the team has performance targets that need to be met, so reporting is inevitable. With Qlik, we’re delighted to see them limiting the time spent on pulling reports and instead, putting data in more people’s hands and using it to see how the ambulance service can improve.”