System Tracks Illnesses from EMS Response

El Paso County’s ambulance service can now track patterns of illness and crime on calls it responds to.

American Medical Response launched the tracking program, called FirstWatch, earlier this year – and is using it to track calls with complaints of flu-like symptoms, said Laura Saenz, communications center manager for AMR.

So far, no patterns have surfaced.

The software was created in 1999 and first used in Kansas City. It was designed to track bioterrorism and weapons of mass destruction, but soon evolved to be used to track other patterns – heart attack rates or other illness patterns.

“We can track almost any statistic,” Saenz said. “People can just let us know. We can track the number of violent crimes’ calls we go on, but we don’t have it set up for that right now. We’re solely tracking illnesses.”

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