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Finding time for heart attacks using Google technology

Associate Professor Richard Beare, cardiologist Dr Justin Cole and Professor Jamie Layland.

With heart attacks, not only do patients need to get to hospital quickly, staff on call also need to get to hospital as speedily as possible.

Professor Jamie Layland heads the Cardiovascular Research Unit at Peninsula Health. Much of Professor Layland’s research is based on clinical and surgical innovations, but on this occasion, in collaboration with St Vincent’s Hospital and the Academic Unit at Peninsula Health, Google Maps was the team’s main tool.

“No-one before has really focussed on travel time for on-call staff, so we wanted to look at the impact of traffic congestion and distance using this new software and code that Associate Professor Richard Beare from the Academic Unit has developed,” says Professor Layland.

Using this software, the team was able to pinpoint differing travel times from staff homes to the two hospitals (St Vincent’s and Frankston) at varying times of the day.

“We compared simulated travel time to the two hospitals during peak traffic congestion time (7am and 6pm) with travel at midnight when there is virtually no traffic.

We found that traffic congestion affects staff travel time in the city significantly more than it does around Frankston, which is located in the outer suburban area of Melbourne,” explains Professor Layland.

 “You can live extremely close to a metropolitan hospital and it can take you 15 minutes to get in at midnight, but over an hour in peak traffic, when responding to an emergency.”

“That’s vital to know if your goal is to get to hospital within half an hour when responding to a heart attack call-out. Depending on the type of hospital, the information provided by this software may help staff members dealing with heart attacks plan their whereabouts during peak travel congestion time, to ensure they can attend promptly and obtain good patient outcomes.”

The team’s work has led to a second research project currently underway, which is already showing some interesting results.

“This technology can also be applied to map out where heart attack centres are currently placed, and where future centres can be placed, based on the most efficient travel times to a centre, for the patient who suffers a heart attack,” says Professor Layland.

“This is a system and care-based approach that could help deliver better outcomes for healthcare across Victoria, as well as in the local community,” adds Professor Layland.

This article was first published in the 2017 Peninsula Health Research Report.

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