National

App developed to help judge whether calling an ambulance is really necessary

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Amid the widespread misuse of ambulances in situations that are not strictly emergencies, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency will soon introduce an easy-to-use tool to help judge whether a person’s condition is serious enough to merit calling one.

The agency will launch a website and a smartphone app around the end of this month that will help people quickly find out whether one’s condition requires emergency transport or is stable enough that they can visit the hospital by themselves.

“The average person might struggle with assessing whether he or she needs emergency transport” or should wait a while and observe their symptoms, an agency official said.

“It will also help reduce the number of non-serious emergency calls and the need to transport people by ambulance,” he said.

According to the agency, of the almost 5.5 million people transported by ambulance to hospitals nationwide in 2015, only 8.5 percent were found to be in a serious enough condition that required hospitalization for three weeks or more.

Of the 5.48 million people transported, 1.4 percent were confirmed to be dead when their ambulance arrived at the hospital.

On the other hand, those who were in moderately serious condition accounted for 40.5 percent of the total, while those having only minor problems that did not require hospitalization stood at 49.4 percent.

To address the problem of casual use of ambulances, the agency has issued a booklet with guidelines on how to assess one’s condition but has concluded that “it doesn’t really come in handy in emergency cases,” the official said.

The new tool, titled Q-suke in Japanese, a play on two Japanese words meaning emergency and help, is based on those guidelines.

Users will be asked to input information about their symptoms or respond to check-box questions to see if their condition requires making an emergency 119 call or how soon they should visit a hospital.

The questions were created based on government-approved diagnosis criteria.

“This tool should assist with quick diagnoses … especially in areas where local municipalities don’t offer such consultation services,” the official said.

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