David Waters – Spreading the word to first responders

Paramedics are the first to assess patients in the field. So, it makes sense to involve this essential profession from the very beginning as we pursue our quest to improve pre-hospital diagnosis and treatment of stroke. As the development of lightweight brain imaging devices for road and air ambulances progresses, we rely on experts to spread the word. Fundamental to our success is David Waters, a board member of the Australian Stroke Alliance and the CEO of the Council of Ambulance Authorities (CAA).

Foundation Stroke Alliance supporter, David Waters, is a conduit to a massive audience of people committed to the Stroke Alliance’s Golden Hour program.  He has “a number of audiences” eager to hear of our progress – especially the board of the CAA.

“They are really keen, because they are the chief executives of all of the ambulance services in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea,” David says.

“As well as the involvement of chief executives, we’re speaking to medical directors, paramedics, clinicians, educators and the ambulance fleet managers, who will be responsible for installing these devices and managing them. It really is a multi-faceted project for us because it touches every part of our business.”

It’s not hard to see why there is such excitement about the project from everyone involved.  Recently published statistics showed that, in a 12-month period between 2020 and 2021, the CAA member services responded to 6 million incidents and assessed, treated and transported 4.6 million patients across Australia and New Zealand.  Considering the enormous demand, providing new technologies and improved telehealth options are essential for paramedics in the field.

“Everyone benefits. Obviously, the patient benefits as they are placed on the right care path immediately, but the paramedics also because they’re equipped with the right tools, they are making the right decisions and they can see the patient is getting the right care.”

Assisting paramedics to make key decisions will improve as the Stroke Alliance’s customised telehealth network begins to roll-out in pilot ‘stroke capable’ ambulances and aircraft.  The ability to connect various members of the stroke treatment team at the earliest possible moments of responding to a stroke will not only generate long-term benefits for the patient, but also provide invaluable support to paramedics. 

“Having the ability to videoconference with an expert or a specialist from the scene of the stroke is going to be particularly helpful for paramedics in making a definitive diagnosis and then getting the patient to the most appropriate hospital.  It is the future and with the Stroke Alliance’s Golden Hour project, the rollout of a telehealth program, for stroke initially, is going to be a nice segue into a much wider telehealth environment for our paramedic workforce.”

Stroke treatment is changing rapidly through technology and a new generation of medication protocols.

Not long ago, for a paramedic, stroke was one of those conditions that they would turn up to and there was nothing that they could do to help the patient apart from transport them.  They would know that that individual would probably end up in hospital for a few days, hopefully be transferred to some form of rehabilitation, but inevitably would have a life-long deficit.

“Paramedics love to solve problems. If there is a way to diagnose and treat faster out in the field and, perhaps, treat a stroke with a new clot-busting medication, they’ll grab it.”

He’s not surprised that Australia and New Zealand are at the forefront of enhancing stroke care. “Australia is often seen as a world-leader for change in clinical practice and this will just be another great example of Australia and New Zealand leading the world in innovation in the pre-hospital setting and that will be really well received. We are very keen to share our clinical advancements with our globally ambulance friends and partners quite quickly.”