AUAS students design trauma panel for London Air Ambulance - NHS

19 Jul 2023 13:37 | Faculty of Digital Media and Creative Industries

Imagine that you're a student and you contribute to a project that could help save many lives. Eight HvA students from the master's in Digital Design did this, together with their lecturer, international designer Rich Holland. They designed an ingenious dashboard for the London Air Ambulance and the UK National Health Services.

"999, who do you want to speak to: police, fire brigade or ambulance?"


"You are speaking to the ambulance service, how can we help you?"

"There has been a traffic accident on the A10, with a lorry. Two people covered in blood!"

"We are sending a trauma helicopter."

In such a situation, every second counts. Yet a lot of time and, more importantly, information is lost in the process that follows after someone calls the emergency services, lecturer Rich Holland from the master Digital Design explains. “The current method is: the Air Ambulance dispatcher sends the helicopter to the trauma site with some basic information. The ambulance gets there, the medics work on the patient and get him into the ambulance. While they get back to the trauma bay, they make a brief phone call to the surgeons waiting. Or there they write a small report, that in the moment nobody has time to look at.”

Student project

The consequence of this method is that in-house trauma surgeons are handed over a patient with limited information about the injury and the medical procedures already performed by the ambulance workers. There must be a way to improve this, Dr Zane Perkins thought – he is a trauma surgeon at the London Air Ambulance. He wrote an academic paper about it and was awarded funding.

Rich Holland: “Perkins and I had been working together before. We thought it would be great to get HvA students on board. It was great that the masters Digital Design provided the opportunity to make this a brief for their final project.” Two teams of four students at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) designed a trauma panel: an information flow system which is connected to an AI prediction algorithm. The AI is developed in the UK by the Centre for Trauma Sciences, the AUAS students designed the dashboard.

Big live data screen

The new trauma panel is a big screen with information from the dispatcher who took the call, live data of the incoming patient plus the AI-generated predictions about what could happen.

The final design of one of the student teams

“As soon as the air ambulance gets to the patient, they hook him up to a monitor that displays the patient’s blood pressure, temperature, CO2 intubated, et cetera”, Rich Holland explains. “This data is beamed to the panel in the trauma bay. Waiting for the patient they can see what's going on.” Holland and his students visualised both this data and the AI prediction. That prediction concerns scenarios like ‘what happens to a body when losing blood pressure’ or ‘what happens to a brain if it is without oxygen for x minutes’.

No more writing on the patient’s body

An important part of the panel is the intervention points. When a patient is given blood or any other treatment, the trauma bay should know. “The doctors of the air ambulance can time stamp these interventions. Maybe they do a REBOA, a procedure to stop internal bleeding by blowing up a balloon in the aorta. It is crucial to know exactly when they did that because it means that certain areas of the patient’s body have more or less time to survive.” Usually, the on-site surgeon writes this information on a piece of paper or on the patient itself; the new panel will show it automatically on a big screen.

The final design of the second team


His students were brilliant, Rich Holland says. “Some of them had connections with doctors and nurses and did a lot of research. We also connected with the Amsterdam Air Ambulance Service and saw their helipad. Their monitor is similar to what they use in London.”

Further development

His students have graduated, but Holland will further improve the design together with one of them, who he will employ. Like the ‘dot’ in the schematic that marks the spot of the injury: it looks too much like a gunshot, Perkins told him. Also needed: a phone-based system. “Often there's an on-call senior trauma surgeon who is not on-site or in the trauma bay. If the surgeons need a double opinion they'll call this senior, who can then log in to the trauma panel, see what's going on and give advice.” From the end of next year, the trauma panel will be trialled in four major hospitals in London.

Not sexy but saving lives

As a designer, Holland worked on a lot of commercial projects, he says. “This project isn't as sexy as a new Nike Dunk campaign but it's gonna save lives and the students really embraced it. I wish I could employ the whole team.”