Pilot Trials to validate NESA system have been successfully carried out. They started in December 2004 with personnel education and first test cases and ended in June 2005 with a "live" presentation in Lonigo (Vicenza) to Veneto, Lombardia and Toscana Regional Health Care Administrations.
A total of 65 patients have been successfully diagnosed performing 12 EKGs, other life sign digital exams and 84 X-Ray images carried out by non specialist paramedics, following general regulation on radio-protection. In particular:
- 3 patients were assisted on the road as "green code" emergency cases;
- 62 patients, 17 of which on green code call, were reached at their place. Only in 2 cases (pneumonia and a broken leg of two patients in elderly residence) transportation to hospital was needed. In the other cases, patients were successfully treated at their location, following remote diagnosis. The quality of the images sent was good and the general practitioner administered the most appropriate treatment.
The following diagram show the number of clinical exams performed during Pilot Trials per type of examination:
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An interesting analysis on the X-Ray transmitted images (DICOM compressed) per type of exam and image size (byte average), is shown below:
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NESA missions have been going on since Pilot Trials termination with 15 patients assisted in July and August 2005. The user community employed the NESA ambulance in a program to relieve elderly people from the hot weather, assisting them at home. This activity was outside the ESA project and it's a spontaneous employment of the system we consider a very promising result.
The NESA target has been fully accomplished.
It has not been necessary, as usually happens, to transport people asking for emergency help to the emergency ward. Patients, many of them being ageing people already suffering for other illness, did not face stretchers, ambulances, bad weather and long wait periods.
The ULSS ambulances trips have been cut to a fraction, allowing the transportation of the most urgent cases and fulfilling requests that should have been delayed, should the ambulance have gone back transporting the first patient. Also the economic saving, secondary scope compared to patient assistance, has been confirmed as expected, and it is reported in the NESA Strategic Plan General practitioners enthusiastically participated to the pilot trials. Their role is enhanced by NESA, as they can be part of the remote consultation leading to a diagnosis. In case of patient transportation and admission they are completely excluded not only from diagnosis but also from the treatment decision process.
After the termination of the pilot trials, when the target number of patients has been reached in June 2005, the ULSS has been compelled by this situation to ask to the prime contractor to continue operations, due to the number of requests reaching the administration from general practitioners and in some cases even from private citizens at their homes.
Other 20 patients have been treated in this framework to the moment.
All patients have tolerated very well the procedures and appreciated the innovation. Paramedics and X-Ray technical specialists collaborated to the project, giving useful advices to improve the quality of the service. The ULSS administration gave all the necessary help, including the adaptation of crew shifts.
We can hence state that not only NESA is useful but necessary for the appropriate assistance given by a modern health care unit, with interesting perspectives also for the private sector.