Help is on the way
Posted on 23 September 2019
ER24’s emergency resource officers are qualified, compassionate professionals, equipped with the latest technology to get you the help you need.
Calling 084 124 is your first step towards getting help in any emergency. But who is on the other end of the line? And what happens next?
“Our slogan is Real Help, Real Fast,” says Shakira Cassim, Manager: ER24 Contact Centres. “And we mean it: calling us gives you access to a wide range of emergency assistance capabilities.”
Putting the patient at the centre of the business has long been a part of the ER24 philosophy, agrees ER24 CEO Ben Johnson – and the company is changing to keep meeting the unique needs of South Africans.
“When you think about it, we have multiple ways of communicating, and we should have multiple ways of calling for medical assistance,” Johnson says. “Apps, SMSes, instant messaging services like WhatsApp and Telegram – we need to make sure that people are able to access our services in a multitude of ways.”
In order to give each emergency call the clinical guidance required, these resource officers are accompanied by:
▶ REGISTERED NURSES
▶ CLINICAL COORDINATORS
▶ INTERFACILITY TRANSFER AGENTS
▶ SUPPORT RESOURCE OFFICERS
▶ GLOBAL ASSIST AGENTS
▶ HIGHLY-SKILLED QUALITY CONTROL TEAMS
“Registered nurses will assist in co-ordinating long-distance transfers by relaying the necessary medical information to the patient and offering telephonic counselling,” Cassim says. “They are also able to review helicopter and air ambulance requests before referring them to the doctor on call.”
Clinical coordinators, trained to manage the electronic triage system model and to revise it when necessary in line
“OUR SLOGAN IS REAL HELP, REAL FAST. AND WE MEAN IT: CALLING 084 124 GIVES YOU ACCESS TO A WIDE RANGE OF EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE CAPABILITIES.”
From its operational centre in Johannesburg, ER24 currently hosts a team of over 270 staff members dedicated to ensuring each and every call is managed effectively
and efficiently – over 100 emergency resource officers use sophisticated algorithms to log each call and gather vital information, including:
▶ NAME AND NUMBER OF THE CALLER
▶ PHYSICAL ADDRESS OF THE INCIDENT
▶ AN ALTERNATIVE NUMBER
▶ DETAILS OF WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE PATIENT
“The system is designed to prompt the agent to ask appropriate questions,” Cassim explains. “For example, if the patient is suffering a heart attack, the agent will be prompted to ask triage questions that have been customised for the South African context.”
with international best practice, oversee clinical excellence and the level of training. Interfacility transfer agents handle the logistics of moving patients from one destination to another and deal with medical aid scheme rules and funding. “We also have support resource officers who manage the necessary resources after a case has been logged,” Cassim says. “And Global Assist agents are trained to deal with international assistance – which includes air ambulance requests.”
But that’s not all. The emergency medical services industry is evolving, says Johnson, and ER24 is growing with it. With an ethos rooted in providing expert, immediate care all across SA, ER24 is exploring ways to improve access to care – and looking at technological innovations to do that.
One example: ER24 recently announced a partnership with revolutionary location technology what3words to improve response times.
This technology company has mapped the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares, and given each one a unique what3words address, made of three words from the dictionary. For instance, nerds.sponsored.oats will take you to the entrance of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway.
Using a what3words address – instead of a traditional address, which can prove difficult to find in rural or informal areas – gives callers a simple way to describe precisely where they need help, and allows ER24 to get resources straight to the scene.
ER24 also manages the 112 Emergency Service for both Vodacom and Cell C, and has begun using this service to experiment with new technologies. Hearing-impaired users can currently access that call centre by typing, and using a chatbot to relay their emergency. “No one should be denied access to care,” says Johnson. “We want our Contact Centre to become the access point of choice for anyone who needs assistance.”
In order to drive this improved ease of access, ER24 has joined the European Emergency Number Association (EENA). Based in Brussels, Belgium, EENA brings together over 1 500 emergency services representatives from over 80 countries worldwide into one conversation. It also includes 100 solution providers, 15 international organisations and over 100 researchers.
ER24 has been an EENA member since 2018, says Cassim, and the company is proud of this affliation. “EENA brings together a range of emergency service providers with different forms of expertise,” she says. “This is very useful, as it allows us to draw on the knowledge and experience of partners from all over the world.”
Innovation has long been a focus for ER24, she explains. “We are constantly looking for ways to expand and improve our offering to everyone in South Africa. Being a part of EENA helps us to grow, by learning from successful new projects by other EMS companies overseas.”
Another innovation that could soon bear fruit is EENA’s partnership with Waze, the world’s largest community- based traffic and navigation app. Together, they are working to understand and evaluate the use of GPS in emergency response scenarios in a number of pilot sites in Europe.
EENA is also working with various providers to determine the feasibility of using smartphones’ built-in advanced mobile location capability to pinpoint the whereabouts of patients who require assistance. It is also in advanced stages of testing a programme that will create a network of first responder services which operates by remotely piloted aircraft systems, commonly known as drones.
“All across the world, EMS providers are improving the way they respond to patients,” says Johnson. “They’re more accessible, they’re more accurate in how they find and treat their patients, they’re just plain quicker. At ER24 we aim to be at the forefront of these improvements, right here in SA.”
“NO ONE SHOULD BE DENIED ACCESS TO CARE. WE WANT OUR CONTACT CENTRE TO BECOME THE ACCESS POINT OF CHOICE FOR ANYONE WHO NEEDS ASSISTANCE.”