UC-San Diego professors, students create app to improve Tijuana’s ambulance service

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SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — For the better part of a year, Tijuana’s Red Cross has been using a mobile app developed by professors and students at the University of California San Diego.

The application has created a faster, easier and more efficient way to dispatch ambulance crews to emergencies around Tijuana, a city of about 1.7 million people.

Now, dispatchers can track ambulances through the app, know which ones are available and those already on a call.

UC San Diego students and professors worked on a mobile app to help modernize Tijuana’s ambulance service.
(Courtesy: Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego)

“We can dispatch, track and collect information and we can manage an ambulance better,” said Carlos Vera, an engineering professor at UC San Diego.

Leon Wu, a UC San Diego Computer Science Student doing a ride along with a Cruz Roja ambulance making sure the app was working properly. (Courtesy: Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego)

Vera also teaches medicine in Mexico and works for the Red Cross, which handles 95 percent of emergency calls in Tijuana. He has been part of a team working on the app for about four years.

“We found out the most pressing needs seemed to be the ability to locate the ambulances, know where they are at all times, improving their system of dispatching and tracking an ambulance,” said UCSD Engineering Professor Mauricio De Oliveira.

Dispatchers use the mobile app to track ambulances around the city of Tijuana, units that would be available in case of an emergency. (Courtesy: Mauricio De Oliveira)

De Oliveira said several students also worked on the project, some who rode ambulances as a way to get a better understanding of what needed to be done.

“Rarely do you have the opportunity to work on something that can impact so many people,” said De Oliveira.

Recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, De Oliveira and the others added a feature to the app allowing ambulance crews to communicate with hospitals and health care facilities in real time.

“We added a feature that if a patient were picked up by an ambulance, if they identify potential COVID-19 case, it allows crews to actually warn doctors ahead of time that such a patient was coming.”

De Oliveira said the application has proven so effective others are taking notice.

“Mexico City and Brazil have inquired about using the app for their fleet of ambulances.”

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