Ambulances & Vehicle Ops, News, Training

Paramedic Fights Drug Abuse with Electronic Pill Bottle

Issue 5 and Volume 38.

Fighting Drug Abuse
A Las Vegas paramedic partnered with a group of Brigham Young University engineering students to invent a new pill bottle in hopes of combatting drug abuse. The paramedic was inspired after witnessing too many deaths caused by drug abuse—in America, 100 overdose deaths occur every day.

The new bottle, which is currently unnamed, regulates and dispenses painkillers based only on a doctor’s prescription. It is tamper- and hack-proof, which the team hopes will stop users from purposefully or accidentally taking too many pills.

According to a press release, “The device must be plugged into a computer by USB cable for the pharmacist to access it and to load the pills. The pharmacist then uses software created by the students to specify how often the pills can be retrieved each day. Once the device is unplugged from the computer, it locks and dispenses only according to those instructions. As an added safety measure, patients must key in an access code on the bottle each time a pill is ready to dispense.”

The bottle was designed to be reusable and affordable (reports suggest a $20 retail price).

“The fact that there isn’t a solution to the drug-overdose epidemic really drove us,” says Dallin Swiss, one of the students working on the project.

We applaud this group of innovators for taking a serious problem and actively finding a solution that can easily be accessible to most Americans. This device could not only save lives, but also has the potential to decrease the number of drug overdose calls an EMT or paramedic encounters in the line of duty. 

Safety in the Rig

Concerned by the amount of EMS line-of-duty deaths where the provider had been an “unrestrained operator/passenger” of the emergency vehicle, EMS Chiefs in Pennsylvania have developed a new way to promote seatbelt use.The group, in partnership with the Emergency Medical Services Institute (EMSI), developed and distributed bright orange seatbelt covers to more than 139 ambulance services in the region. The high visibility of these covers is to remind and motivate providers to stay buckled; passing vehicles and pedestrians are able to see the neon strip and know whether or not safety providers are practicing what they preach.“We value the safety of our EMS providers, and these seatbelt covers are a highly visible reminder of the importance of seatbelt use every time a person gets into a vehicle,” says Thomas J. McElree, EMSI executive director.

“Through this program, our EMS providers are role models for the entire community.”The goal of the “Safety Shows to Provider, Patients, Public” program is to have 100% compliance by all front-seat occupants of EMS vehicles. The program started with the seatbelt initiative but is intended to carry over to other ways safety can be promoted. Members of different EMSI committees and the Pennsylvania Department of Health will also be working to gather seatbelt usage data for further analysis.Meanwhile, in Alabama, Lauderdale County’s newest ambulance provider is requiring all employees to wear helmets while inside the ambulance.“The back of an ambulance is an unsafe place. We’re driving at high rates of speed through red lights and stop signs,” said Shoals Ambulance Service CEO Bryan Gibson in an interview with local news station WAFF.

“Hopefully they stop, and they should, but things happen and sometimes people don’t see us and we get hit.”

The service is one of the first in the nation to require protective headgear, and the employees are excited for the extra protection. Some even said the helmets make them look more professional.

The noggin defenders also have adjustable face shields to guard against any splashes of blood or other bodily fluids that may occur while when tending to a patient.

We give a big thumbs up to all these organizations for taking steps toward increasing responder safety. It’s proactive measures like these that can make a difference in decreasing the amount of on-the-job deaths and injuries.