Wireless speeds EMS crews' paperwork

First responders in Norwich Township, Ohio, are using wireless devices and database software to get their ambulances back on the road faster as well as to comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rules.

The township's emergency medical services personnel early this year began using the Itronix fex21 from Itronix Corp. of Spokane, Wash. The handheld device runs the MobileEMS database application developed by Clayton IDS Inc. of Columbus, Ohio, and iAnywhere software from iAnywhere Solutions, a subsidiary of Sybase Inc.

After each ambulance run, EMS workers are required by state law to log a patient care report of vital signs, dispatch time and medical procedures performed en route. The data goes to the hospital staff, the fire department and Ohio health officials.

'This report is our legal document of what transpired during the incident,' said Vince Papa, EMS coordinator for Norwich Township. In the past, EMS workers filled out a paper report, which took about 45 minutes per incident. Then the EMS workers had to give the hospital staff a copy when they transferred the patient. Often they had to take time explaining their special procedure codes to the hospital staff.

The form had a space for describing the incident, which was fine as long as the hospital staff could read the handwriting, Papa said.

Send to printer

Now EMS crews use an infrared port to beam the data to printers at nine hospitals in Franklin County. 'It prints out in plain English'no codes,' Papa said.

That has reduced the time EMS crews spend at the hospital explaining the circumstances. Papa said that's the biggest benefit because it 'gets the emergency vehicles back out on the road as soon as possible, ready to handle the next emergency.'

When the EMS crew returns to the fire station, they 'cradle sync' the device with larger systems using Microsoft ActiveSync and a Universal Serial Bus port. The data is immediately available for statistical analysis. Before, data would stay on paper for days or weeks before it was keyed into the database. Township officials estimated they have reduced data processing costs by more than 90 percent.

The software meets HIPAA regulations for privacy and confidentiality, Papa said. Clayton IDS officials are adding password protection as an extra privacy measure.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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