Pa. Firefighters Save Time With Digitized EMS Reports

March 12, 2013
New Carlisle medics are writing up an average of 1,200 EMS reports on paper annually. A new $11,300 digital EMS patient care reporting system is expected to save time and money.

March 12--NEW CARLISLE -- New Carlisle Fire and EMS Division is turning to digital technology to save time and thousands of dollars, decrease response times, simplify patient care reporting and improve safety.

The move to digital reports and a text message-based response system for firefighters follows in the footsteps of metropolitan cities, bigger suburbs and others that were early adopters of the technologies, said Kent Scarrett, director of communications for the Ohio Municipal League.

"(Municipalities are) trying to capture and take advantage of greater efficiencies," Scarrett said.

Currently New Carlisle medics write up an average of 1,200 EMS reports on paper annually. Those reports are then typed into a database and checked for quality by commanders, chewing up valuable time and resources, Department Administrator and Chief Tracy Young said.

He estimated that costs the division $6,000 to $10,000 annually.

So New Carlisle council members last week reviewed a request to spend $11,300 on a new digital EMS patient care reporting system. The city could save up to $4,000 each year after the initial purchase of equipment and system training.

If the new system from Texas-based ESO Solutions is approved by council on March 18, it would take the paper copy out of the equation. Digital patient reports could also then be transmitted directly to a hospital and be automatically saved to a database for future medical reference.

Statistics also could be pulled and sent to various state agencies.

New Carlisle is one of the few cities left that does manual reporting, Young said, as most have already moved to similar digital methods.

He allayed privacy concerns, noting that the reports and any transmission of them are encrypted.

The city has a $3,500 state grant to put toward the proposed purchase, meaning the initial cost to the city would be about $7,800.

The division also has moved recently from a costly emergency response paging system to a new text messaging service that uses mobile and smart phone technology to call its volunteers or other firefighters not at the station for runs.

It used to spend about $6,000 annually through American Messaging, which included pager rental and service fees. The new system costs $780 annually for 75 devices, and more can be added for an additional cost.

And it has added benefits for smartphone users through an app, including GPS mapping and hydrant locations, HazMat and emergency plan details for high risk structures, and real-time tracking of on-scene and en route firefighters, Young said.

Knowing where fire hydrants are and what type of structure or hazardous materials might be there before arriving on scene could prepare firefighters for what they're facing, Young said, and increase their safety.

"The focus is on being efficient and effective," he said. "It's lower cost to taxpayers and a much better application and notification system."

Bethel Twp. Fire Department uses the phone system and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has experimented with it, Young said. Young is the deputy fire chief for Wright-Patt.

"(Digital systems are) expanding and that kind of tells you something -- that it must be working," Scarrett said. "It's a best practice idea, an approach to trying to be on the cutting edge of delivering services."

Copyright 2013 - Dayton Daily News, Ohio

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