VIRVE TETRA network saves lives in Finland - Key Touch magazine

Case study: VIRVE TETRA network saves lives in Finland

Digital radios are alive and well at North Karelia Central Hospital


You'd never have guessed, back in 2008, that Finland's North Karelia Central Hospital had 30 VIRVE radio handsets.

That's because the 10 people who actually knew how to use the handsets shared one of them. The other 29 were kept in storage.

When hospital administrators realised that staff wouldn't be able to use the radios in a crisis if they didn't use them day-to-day, they decided to make a change. In 2008, the hospital put two employees in charge of training the others.

And now, VIRVE TETRA network communications are part of the hospital's standard operating procedure.

Communications for medical teams

These days, 580 hospital employees rely on VIRVE technology. These staff members include:

  • Doctors
  • Operating theatre staff
  • Laboratory technicians
  • Emergency medics
  • X-ray technicians
  • Technical personnel

These key personnel help keep North Karelia's local population of 173,000 healthy by using VIRVE to:

Assemble trauma teams quickly. The hospital's trauma alert group helps its most critical patients by reducing the time it takes to assemble a team to care for them.

This talk group includes up to 19 people, including:

  • Emergency medical care workers
  • Surgeons
  • Anaesthetists
  • Operating theatre personnel
  • X-ray technicians
  • Laboratory staff

Before VIRVE, it could take as long as 20 minutes to call everyone individually on a cell phone. Now the trauma group alerts everyone at once.

"This is a huge saving of time," says Jari Hirvonen from the department of emergency medicine. "More than one-quarter of patients arriving at this hospital require attention within 30 minutes, so it can mean the difference between life and death."

VIRVE TETRA network saves lives, says Jari Hirvonen  Jari Hirvonen from North Karelia Central Hospital, Finland.

At least one patient a week generates a trauma alert. So this app alone saves dozens of lives a year.

"I've seen lives saved thanks to this," Hirvonen says.

Plan emergency response. The hospital uses the Merlot location app to pinpoint where mobile emergency response units are located in real time. That lets medics estimate more accurately when patients will arrive and prepare for their ingress.

Save time. VIRVE TETRA network communications also help the hospital run more efficiently. For example, the emergency care unit and the operating theatre used to call lab technicians via cell phone to request a specimin. Now that call goes out instantly using VIRVE. Hospital managers estimate that this efficiency alone saves the hospital 500 working hours a year.

Boost security. VIRVE has also helped improve information security and confidentiality at the hospital. Because VIRVE is used only by the Finnish authorities, a slip of the dialing finger nevers means a patient's personal information goes public — always a possibility with a public cellular network.

Improve communications. Some users are also trained in using the radios in Direct Mode Operation, or DMO. That allows mobile radio users to communicate with each other where there's no network coverage. The TETRAbook "phonebook" feature guarantees that numbers are always up to date.

VIRVE TETRA networks for hospitals

What's next?

North Karelia Central Hospital has a wish list of features they'd like to add to the VIRVE TETRA system.

"We'd like to be able to get real-time vitals such as ECG readings from the field," says Mr Hirvonen.

"We'd also like to be able to send pictures from the scene of an incident. This will help people understand the situation as they approach the scene, and help doctors back at the hospital understand the possible injuries and prepare to treat patients effectively when they arrive."

But for now, VIRVE TETRA network communications provide support for the hospital's day-to-day and emergency efforts.

Radio handset training has become part of the standard induction process for medics and other new hospital staff. The department of emergency medicine no longer uses Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) at all.

And the hospital's radio handsets? At least 48 radios are always in use. 


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