Wi-Fi is becoming as common as cell phones. Starbucks', McDonald’s and airplanes now offer Wi-Fi. Ambulances are joining the communication innovation, too. The JEMS 200-City Survey found that as many 86% of respondents say they're using electronic patient care records and sending data to hospitals while en route.
Rowan County (N.C.) has a wireless system that starts with dispatch and goes on through billing. The county’s Chief of Emergency Services Frank Thomason says dispatch and routing information, along with maps, are automatically relayed to an ambulance when a call comes in.
Each of the county's 11 ambulances have a Wi-Fi access point that makes them mobile hotspots. This allows direct communication between onboard laptops and cardiac monitors. Patient care reports and vital signs are instantly sent to the hospital, allowing hospital staff to be ready when the patient rolls in.
“We've seen a real difference,” says Thomason. “We've had numerous cardiac cases where the cath lab is ready when the ambulance arrives.”
Submitting electronic patient care records to their third-party billing company has increased the county’s billing collections. The information goes to the company more quickly and more accurately. Thomason says there’s an overall decrease in documentation error rate.
Mini-Cams for EMS?
Another technology that may appear in the EMS market is a personal video camera, made by TASER International. It’s currently used by law enforcement. The small camera is attached to a helmet or worn over the ear to capture what the officer sees. This camera could have applications for EMS too. For example, it might be used for documentation for training purposes.
TASER spokesman Steve Tuttle says, “I don't think that industry is ready for it yet.” EMS agencies have contacted TASER, but Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is the stumbling block. Tuttle thinks there may be a way to deal with that as the technology advances.