When was the last time you emergently faxed a grocery list to your spouse?
When was the last time you used an 800MHz radio to finalize a dinner with your colleagues?
When was the last time you paged your neighbor’s kid to take out your garbage?
Consider Amazon. The online retail giant connects hundreds of thousands of buyers with hundreds of thousands of sellers, and with just a tap you can read and review millions of products. With another tap, Amazon brings in financial information (which is every bit as sensitive as health information). And finally, with another tap, you connect with a logistics company and that allows you full transparency as you watch your shoes get delivered to your home.
Now think about your last STEMI case. What forms of communication are used when a patient’s life is on the line? Why haven’t we fully embraced technology as a way to better care for those in need?
Why, when someone is having a heart attack or stroke, are we notifying the doctor and the team by fax or pager? Instead of utilizing available technology to create change and improve outcomes, we’re patching together multiple antiquated means of communication. Sure, we can get the job done by using landlines, pagers, fax machines and good ol’ oral tradition. But why do we continually accept “good enough” in healthcare?
Why aren’t we taking advantage of mobile technology to improve patient care? How can we start embracing mobile technology in the acute healthcare setting like we do with the rest of our daily lives? It’s amazing how mobile technology has infiltrated every single aspect of our lives to change the way we do things.
I regularly access one of a dozen major websites sites to instantly book every aspect of my travel—from flights, to rental cars and hotels. All I need is a credit card or access to my PayPal account. These sites seamlessly connect multiple entities (buyers, sellers, financial institutions, etc.) together.
Why, then, do we patch together five different systems to unite a team during an emergency? EMS uses a radio to call the ED. They phone the operator to have the on-call team paged. People are sending non-secure text messages while wondering what the other members of the team are doing.
Not long ago, CDs were replacing cassettes. Today music is either purchased and downloaded, or streamed right to our mobile device of choice.
Just as no one uses cassettes anymore and CDs are becoming old news, devices like pagers and two-way radios are rarely used outside of the healthcare setting. Mobile technology is taking over the world—until it’s time to take care of an emergent patient, that is. By using the resources at our fingertips, we should be able to securely consume critical data like we do the latest Top 40 hit.
The Written Word
Hastings Bookstores, a large regional retailer, recently went out of business, closing shop on more than 100 storefront locations in my area. Why? Because any book or podcast I want can easily be downloaded.
If you’ve been in healthcare long enough, you’ve probably completed your fair share of paper charts. If you’re still using them, chances are it’s not for much longer. So why do we continue to hand-off a handwritten communication report when transferring patient care?
You can track your package from any delivery service—including your Domino’s pizza—from the comfort of your phone. Why are hospitals not using the same technology to show patient location and expected ETA?
Google automatically alerts you when there’s news about something you’re interested in, whether it’s your agency, your favorite baseball team or your commute home. So why does everything in healthcare communication have to be so intentional? Why can’t we be alerted as soon as EMS checks en route to our hospital without them having to call us? Why do you still have to read a PCR to find out someone was unable to manage a patient’s airway?
One of our greatest pain points in EMS is getting feedback and follow-up about patients we have dropped off at the hospital. You can log in to your Twitter account and know instantly how many people read each of your tweets and how many people liked them or retweeted them. Why do we have to hunt down the nurse or physician who’s taking care of the stroke we brought in earlier in the day just to find out how they’re doing? Where’s the automatic feedback on the things that really matter?
Medical errors and miscommunication account for up to 400,000 deaths per year, costing the nation nearly $1 trillion dollars. Did you know that 80% of medical errors are the result of miscommunication during transitions in care?
With new technology emerging daily, we’re running out of excuses. It’s past time that we stop treating the symptoms of poor processes instead of changing the process itself. We must embrace the technologies that bring positive change. Our industry deserves it, but more important, our patients deserve it.
It’s up to us.
Brandon Means, RN, BSN, LP, CFRN, CCRN
Brandon began his EMS career 13 years ago as a firefighter and paramedic, and shortly after became a flight paramedic. He has also worked as an EMS educator, an ICU charge nurse, and a flight nurse. Brandon maintains double board certifications in critical care and flight nursing, and has a B.S. in Nursing from Texas A&M University. Brandon is a Clinical Specialist for Pulsara.