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Ohio Agency Using Digital Technology to Reduce Costs, Response Times

NEW CARLISLE - New Carlisle Fire and EMS Division is turning to digital technology to save time and thousands of dollars, lower response times, simplify patient care reporting and improve safety.

The move to digital reports and a text-message-based response system for firefighters follows in the footsteps of metropolitan cities, bigger suburbs and others that were early adopters of the technologies, said Kent Scarrett, director of communications for the Ohio Municipal League.

"(Municipalities are) trying to capture and take advantage of greater efficiencies," Scarrett said.

New Carlisle medics now write up an average of 1,200 EMS reports on paper annually. Those reports are then typed into a database and checked for quality by commanders, chewing up valuable time and resources, Department Administrator and Chief Tracy Young said.

He estimated that costs the division $6,000 to $10,000 annually.

So New Carlisle council members last week reviewed a request to spend $11,300 on a new digital EMS patient care reporting system. The city could save up to $4,000 each year after the initial purchase of equipment and system training.

If the new system from Texas-based ESO Solutions is approved by council March 18, it would take the paper copy out of the equation. Digital patient reports could also then be transmitted directly to a hospital and be automatically saved to a database for future reference.

Statistics also could be pulled and sent to various state agencies.

New Carlisle is one of the few cities left that does manual reporting, Young said, as most have already moved to digital methods.

Addressing privacy concerns, he noted that the reports and any transmission of them are encrypted.

The city has a $3,500 state grant to put toward the proposed purchase, meaning the initial cost to the city would be about $7,800.

The division also has moved recently from a costly emergency response paging system to a text messaging service that uses mobile and smartphone technology to call volunteers or other firefighters not at the station for runs. It used to spend about $6,000 annually through American Messaging, which included pager rental and service fees. The new system costs $780 annually for 75 devices.

And it has added benefits for smartphone users through an app, including GPS mapping and hydrant locations, hazmat and emergency plan details for high-risk structures, and real-time tracking of on-scene and en route firefighters, Young said.

Knowing where fire hydrants are and what type of structure or hazardous materials might be there before arriving on scene could prepare firefighters for what they're facing, Young said.

Bethel Twp. Fire Department uses the phone system and Wright-Patter-son Air Force Base has experimented with it, Young said. Young is the deputy fire chief for Wright-Patt.



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