Emergency TeleHealth and Navigation (ETHAN) Project (Panasonic Toughbook Toughpad/YouTube)


Leveraging telemedicine to avoid ER visits

Mobile Finalists

Access to Care
Department of Veterans Affairs

Caltrans QuickMap
California Department of Transportation

Emergency TeleHealth and Navigation (ETHAN) Project
Houston Fire Department, Houston Department of Health and Human Services

Firearms, Armor, and Credentials Tracking System (FACTS) Project
Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security

Plant Inspections Mobile Application
New York State Office of Information Technology Services, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets


Click here for the full list of 2017 Dig IT finalists for all categories. And please join us at the Oct. 19 Dig IT Awards gala.

Ambulance rides can be costly for patients, service providers and local governments alike. That’s why officials in Houston decided to find a way to decrease the number of unnecessary trips.

The result was the Emergency TeleHealth and Navigation (ETHAN) Project.

“Project ETHAN was really born as an additional tool for our firefighters, EMTs and paramedics to try to address the growing problem of low-acuity calls in the 911 community,” said Dr. Michael Gonzalez, associate medical director of the Houston Fire Department/EMS Division, in a video describing the project.

First responders are now outfitted with Panasonic Toughpad tablets that allow them to collect information on patients and even initiate a video chat with an emergency physician who can provide medical advice and possibly avoid a costly, unnecessary trip to the emergency room. The physician can also help the patient schedule a doctor’s appointment for a later time instead.

The Toughpads handle the video chats via Cisco’s Jabber application, and they record the video chats as part of patients’ medical records.

Previously, 911 calls resulted in the patient being taken to an emergency room regardless of the necessity, which meant an ambulance was unavailable to respond to what might be more urgent calls. ETHAN can cut the time spent dealing with non-urgent cases by up to 50 percent.

According to Panasonic, ETHAN has avoided “unnecessary ambulance trips and ER visits in 80 percent of the cases it was utilized.”

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at mleonard@gcn.com or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.

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Reader Comments

Thu, Oct 19, 2017 James

So how do the EMT's and Paramedics get to the patients to use the ETHAN without an ambulance? Do they drive their own cars or motorcycles? And then they delay care by having to wait for an ambulance when needed?

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