Administration and Leadership, Communications & Dispatch

New Mexico EMS Innovations Conference Highlights Opportunities for FirstNet Implementation

Innovation in the medical field is all around us. Every day, new solutions are developed that positively impact the ability of medical professionals and technology to save lives and improve patient outcomes.  In my years working as an EMS professional, and in communications, I have experienced firsthand scenarios where we could improve patient care using data, technology and innovations that are being used by the general public every day.

As FirstNet continues its outreach and consultation with states and territories, we’re learning from public safety and we are seeing the many ways that healthcare is coming to rely on next-generation tools such as connected devices and smart sensors to help medical professionals provide more effective patient care.

During the 2016 New Mexico EMS Innovations Conference, which brought together more than 300 New Mexico EMS chiefs and providers, there was plenty of valuable dialog about the nationwide public safety broadband network. The conference was held in Albuquerque, N.M., July 25–30 and was sponsored by the New Mexico Region 1 EMS Agency. The annual EMS Innovations Conference is one of the largest of its kind in the state, bringing together EMS practitioners, medical directors and EMS leaders.

As we move toward the delivery of state plans and deployment of the FirstNet network, public safety continues to be at the forefront of every step we take. FirstNet board member Kevin McGinnis has an important role representing EMS interests. During the conference, he discussed the EMS community’s efforts to rally together for the development of FirstNet and the long effort to gain Congressional support. He presented the vision of a future for public safety with the fully interconnected broadband communications network that FirstNet will provide. McGinnis also discussed many EMS app illustrations that can help manage the entire patient encounter in innovative ways and further integrate EMS with the hospital and healthcare system.

The continued participation of state and local agency decision makers in FirstNet discussions is essential to the success of FirstNet. New Mexico single point of contact (SPOC) team representative Nick Cardena was on hand at the conference to discuss the important work ahead for New Mexico as we move toward delivery of state plans and the governor’s decision. Also present was Region 6 Lead Jacque Miller-Waring, former New Mexico SPOC, who is continuing to develop relationships within the region 6 states, including New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

We appreciated having New Mexico EMS chiefs and providers on hand who are involved in providing service to Native American territories within the state, as their experience and insight helped us better understand the unique public safety needs that face tribal communities. FirstNet is interested in talking with tribes to help provide tribal nations with better resources to protect their communities. Tribal Liaison Adam Geisler from the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians is one of two FirstNet regional tribal liaisons. He assists efforts to engage with tribal territories in regions 9 and 10. As we plan for the network, we will continue to strive to meet tribal coverage objectives, leveraging existing tribal assets and being respectful of culturally sensitive sites and lands. It is essential for tribes to work with their state SPOC(s) to detail requirements for the network and to ensure their coverage objectives are heard.

Additional discussions during the EMS Innovations Conference were about potential synergies among the state’s Early Builder (EB) public safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) network project, a tribal EMS community paramedicine program, rural health emergency preparedness communications systems and the state EMS agency for a pilot project on FirstNet-facilitated tribal community paramedicine/telemedicine services.

FirstNet has learned about spectrum management and use issues along the southwest border with Mexico as a result of New Mexico’s EB project. New Mexico is working with federal agencies that operate in the state to leverage their assets for the network and provide network access to federal responders, with a focus on border security. Additionally, as the FirstNet team is learning much about RAN-build challenges in high-desert geographies, there is a great deal of interest in the possibility of using FirstNet further north in the state as the communication link for a pilot community paramedicine program in one of the many tribal pueblos. The broadband connectivity of FirstNet can be a major part of such a program, allowing for video and data connections between the patient in their home and a remote physician.  

The EMS Innovations Conference provided a very preliminary glimpse at the possibilities for the network. As we get closer to those possibilities becoming a reality, there is plenty of work ahead. I believe we have the right team at FirstNet working enthusiastically each day to assure we’re keeping public safety first in everything we do. As technology continues to evolve, our nation’s responders need a public safety broadband network that allows for the use of advanced technologies to save lives and keep their communities safe. 

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