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Brandon Sun - PRINT EDITION

STARS app aimed at helping those in rural areas

STARS pilot Andrew Davidson, left, and paramedic Troy Pauls are shown at Manitoba Ag Days at the Keystone Centre. The air ambulance service expects to soon roll out a subscription-based model of its smartphone app, which will allow STARS to fly to a patient’s location without a description of where they are.

(COLIN CORNEAU/THE BRANDON SUN) Enlarge Image

STARS pilot Andrew Davidson, left, and paramedic Troy Pauls are shown at Manitoba Ag Days at the Keystone Centre. The air ambulance service expects to soon roll out a subscription-based model of its smartphone app, which will allow STARS to fly to a patient’s location without a description of where they are.

When you’re in need, STARS air ambulance will soon be able to fly to your exact location without any description of where you are.

Tapping a button on your phone is the only information STARS’ dispatchers require.

A dispatcher will phone back to determine what the emergency is and send appropriate help.

In some circumstances, this paid service does what a 911 dispatcher does. The person on the other end of the line already knows where you’re located, and, with a physician on standby if need be, can share exactly what type of response your emergency warrants.

STARS already has detailed mapping in place, indicating the closest first responder to any emergency.

And they will have the phone numbers of each customer’s closest family and friends, who, in some cases, can reply the quickest.

Mainly, STARS is aiming this new service at the people who live and work rurally, like the farmers and agriculture companies STARS talked with this week at Manitoba Ag Days in Brandon.

Dan Knapp, STARS’ industry services director, said the mobile app — which will cost $9.99 per month — harkens back to why their helicopter first took flight more than 30 years ago in Alberta.

"The thrust, and the reason why we exist, is for rural and remote people, by and large," he said. "Those are the folks we’re trying to reach because of the distance and the time it takes to get them to a proper facility."

This smartphone app is another way to slash wait times between the far-flung farms and fields where hundreds of injuries occur in Canada each year, and emergency care.

"This is yet another tool in the toolbox that we feel will provide that kind of service to regular farmers and ranchers and their family members, who find themselves in all kinds of situations," Knapp said.

A 2013 report by Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting documented an average of 89 fatalities per year on the farm, between 2000 and 2008.

By having a map of nearest emergency responders and physicians available to answer a dispatcher's questions, STARS has the background to point out what care is appropriate, Knapp said.

"So many problems have occurred by sending a critically ill or injured person to a local clinic. You’re wasting valuable time. They need to go to a trauma centre and our doc knows that."

STARS, acting as a facilitator, would essentially add to the number of people they consider patients with this mobile app. The air ambulance now responds to critical care situations when emergency responders deem it necessary.

The SOLUS app can be used whenever help is required.

Cell service, still poor in some rural areas of Manitoba, is mandatory for the service to work.

STARS expects the subscription-based model to roll out in the first quarter of 2017.

STARS wants major agriculture companies to purchase the subscription-based service for their customers. Knapp suggested companies would purchase six-month subscriptions, similar to the free satellite radio new car buyers sometimes enjoy. Knapp hopes people will find value in the service when their free trial expires.

An iteration of this service is already used by industry, particularly in the oil and gas sector. Satellite service is employed in some cases to ensure the emergency program works everywhere.

Knapp said STARS monitors 4,000 to 5,000 sites and takes between 150-180 calls for service daily.

Oak Lake resident Jay Rimke doesn’t remember his first interaction with STARS in January 2012, while studying agriculture management at Olds College in Alberta.

He knows he was a passenger in a truck struck by a train. He knows, too, that he suffered a serious head injury still impacting his memory, and that he, a 23-year-old spending time at Ag Days this week as a STARS "very important patient," is grateful.

"I would not be here right now without STARS," he said. "This app, it gives you a second chance at a second life."

» ifroese@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @ianfroese

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 19, 2017

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When you’re in need, STARS air ambulance will soon be able to fly to your exact location without any description of where you are.

Tapping a button on your phone is the only information STARS’ dispatchers require.

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When you’re in need, STARS air ambulance will soon be able to fly to your exact location without any description of where you are.

Tapping a button on your phone is the only information STARS’ dispatchers require.

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