St John WA and Fiona Stanley Hospital are joint winners in CAA Awards 2022 for Virtual Emergency Medicine (VEM)

Press Release
  • Western Australia’s Virtual Emergency Medicine (VEM) won the Excellence in Patient Care award at Council of Ambulance Authorities (CAA) Awards on August 12.
  • VEM has contributed towards reducing Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) ambulance cycle times and ramping before Perth’s 2022 COVID-19 surge.
  • VEM is helping to improve patient satisfaction and has been likened to “business class” due to patients by-passing busy hospital EDs.

St John WA and South Metropolitan Health Service are proud to announce Virtual Emergency Medicine (VEM) won the Council of Ambulance Authorities’ (CAA) 2022 award for Excellence in Patient Care.

VEM, an innovative initiative generated by FSH’s emergency department (ED), the SMHS Kaartdijin Innovation team and St John WA, is a first service of its kind in Australia and has been revolutionising emergency patient care by improving ambulance and ED flow since its launch in February 2021.

VEM allows St John WA paramedics to initiate a remote consultation for non-priority one patients aged 16 years and over, with the aim of fast tracking them to the appropriate hospital ward – away from ED, discharging on scene or diverting them to another suitable service.

The FSH VEM command centre teleconferences with paramedics, or conducts video calls when possible, to assess and triage patients while enroute to the hospital, or increasingly at the scene.

It is helping to improve patient satisfaction, FSH ambulance cycle times and has contributed towards reduced ramping before Perth’s 2022 COVID-19 surge.

VEM has the capability to be a nation-leading technology, with potential to be rolled out across countless hospitals, with more than $10 million in WA government funding to expand VEM across the health system.

The initiative was awarded at the CAA Awards in Sydney on August 12. Ambulance services across Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea contended in the awards, which celebrated 15 years this year.

At a glittering gala, St John WA Senior Operations Manager for Country Ambulance, Karen Stewart, also came runner up in the Women in Leadership scholarship out of 121 applicants.

Ms Stewart joined St John WA in 2012 shortly after emigrating from Scotland as a paramedic and has gone on to hold senior positions, including Acting Head of Clinical Services, Acting Head of Country Operations and her current substantive role of Senior Operations Manager- Country Operations.

In her submission to the CAA to be professionally coached by Julie Piantadosi from Total Coaching Academy, Ms Stewart attributed her drive in her career to her two daughters “to guide them to become the confident young women they are today”.

St John WA Acting CEO Antony Smithson celebrated the wins alongside Ms Stewart and the St John team in Sydney, saying it was wonderful to see the hard work going on behind the scenes in WA’s ambulance services and patient care being rewarded.

Pictured: Kerryn Welke – Operations Manager – State Operations Manager and Lauren Davids – Senior Operations Manager – Clinical Governance.

“What an incredible night. We were so happy to see Karen recognised for her inspiring leadership in Country Ambulance Operations, and the team behind VEM should take huge pride in winning such a prestigious award for their service to the WA community,” Mr Smithson said.

He said he was especially proud of the collaboration between St John WA and Fiona Stanley Hospital and South Metropolitan Health Service in developing technology solutions to ensure the delivery of first class care to patients.

“Delivering accurate, timely patient information from St John to EDs before we’ve even arrived is something we’ve been working towards for a long time,” Mr Smithson said.

“To bring Fiona Stanley Hospital and South Metropolitan Health Service’s innovation to fruition has helped each of our organisations deliver a seamless experience for patients.

“It is an approach I believe we can harness to ensure whichever part of the patient journey we have carriage for, we can deliver the best experience to that patient every time.”

With further planned communication and technical integration with SMHS, VEM will further increase its positive impact on the WA community.

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