Christchurch paramedic to launch game-changing app after winning TSB Good Stuff grant

After 25 years working on the frontlines of some of the worst mass-casualty incidents the country has seen, Christchurch paramedic Dean Brown is one step closer to making his game-changing app a reality.

Winner of the People's Choice Award in the recent TSB Good Stuff grants programme, the idea for Brown's app 'Triage-Plus' was born after seeing a need for more efficient communication in such crises as the Christchurch earthquake and more recently, last year's March 15 mosque attack. 

The aim of the app, still in its developmental stage, is to help emergency services manage mass casualty incidents more effectively, providing all necessary patient information in one place. With the current worldwide system for first responders still using the traditional colour-coded cardboard 'tag' system, the 'Triage-Plus' app will correspond with chipped tags, which can then be scanned using a phone or tablet to see the patient's status. 

"Then everyone can see it and update it in real-time - from the paramedics, to the hospital, to police and DHBs," Brown told Newshub. 

It was during the horrific events of last year's fateful March 15 shooting that Brown, one of the ambulance first responders, says showed just how much "the channels of communication can get distorted.”

"With this app, we'd be able to give accurate real-time information - so for the ambulance service, where and how much resource they need to respond." 

From there, Brown explained, "hospitals can start accurately coordinating blood bags and key resources along with triage centres without the paramedic having to pick up the phone or call it in on the radio. From an ambulance perspective, you can just focus on the patient. 

"Usually when there's [a major incident] like last March, hospitals have no idea what's coming through the doors. We were 90 seconds from the hospital, but it’s not helpful if every single ambulance officer is trying to radio the emergency department ahead so hospital staff  can be prepared.

"In major emergencies, there are lots agencies needing critical information in real time while there’s lots of voices trying to provide updates at the same time.  This app provides that crucial info that everyone wants and needs to know on the one accessible platform."

Brown is the winner of the full $30,000  'People's Choice Award', one of a total of nine winners receiving a series of grants coming in at $250,000 in total. All the TSB Good Stuff grants have been awarded to kickstart ideas solving problems and generating good for the future of New Zealand communities, especially those hit hard after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dean Brown developed the app to help with communication in crises like the Christchurch mosque attacks and Christchurch earthquakes.
Dean Brown developed the app to help with communication in crises like the Christchurch mosque attacks and Christchurch earthquakes. Photo credit: St John NZ

TSB CEO Donna Cooper said narrowing down the winners out of thousands of applications was no easy task. 

"TSB was overwhelmed with thousands of applications pitching fantastic ideas," she said. 

"It was really encouraging to see New Zealanders' positive focus when our country is in the middle of a challenging time because of COVID-19.

"Choosing our winners was a hard task, with Kiwis putting forward so many amazing concepts which we’d be proud to support as a bank that exists to use our profit for purpose to generate community good.

"Our TSB Good Stuff grant recipients are going to make a real difference across many different parts of our communities with their work."

For Brown, the money from the TSB Good Stuff grant will firstly go towards feasibility trials - including a 200-person scenario to test the app's limits - and the development of a triage map which will show a real-time live view of patients in the field. 

He maintained it's a privilege to be ranked alongside the other deserving winners. 

"There are some amazing ideas out there [and] TSB has done an amazing job supporting these people to launch these ideas," he said. 

"And you know, one thing that struck me about every idea won was that they're all so Kiwi - in that they've all been about helping people." 

This article was created for TSB