New software brings efficiencies to ambulance service

By Travis Gulbrandson

A computer program recently acquired by the Vermillion-Clay County EMS Department promises to save its technicians a lot of time when they fill out reports and access information.

Members of the Vermillion City Council learned about the program during their special meeting Tuesday afternoon.

“The computer program that we’ve implemented this year is pretty big for us,” said EMS Director Lee Huber. “That’s probably the biggest operational change that we’ve had in the last four or five years.”

The program gives the EMS technicians the option to fill out their reports electronically, as well as give them access to other appropriate data, meaning they can get information about their patients and utilize it in real-time.

“It’s allowing some of the crews to get that report just about complete before they even get back to the station,” Huber said. “So once they get back to town they fill up with gas … and go through the paperwork.”

The techs have access to the program through an ambulance-mounted wireless router system.

“It’s a lot like what pushes the wireless (service) throughout the building,” Huber said. “It’s permanently fixed to the ambulance, and gives us about a 500-foot radius on all sides of the ambulance.

“The equipment can be taken out of the rig, but you maintain that connection,” he said. “It also allows us to attach not only the computer, but the cardiac monitors, and potentially other equipment in the future.”

The equipment itself is made by Panasonic, is roughly the size of an iPad and runs a full version of Windows.

“It’s a very secure access, but at the same time it can be dumbed down enough that if needed for a mobile command-type situation, we can lock a laptop into it wherever we’re at in the county or the city,” Huber said.

“We have no difference between this and our best software in terms of what it’s capable of and how it integrates with the equipment. It’s really like bringing your desktop computer into your patient’s home with you,” he said.

Preliminary checks are already showing a decrease of 15-35 minutes per ambulance run, he said.

“The data behind it is not all there yet,” he said. “The preliminary stuff, the stuff that’s easiest to see for us is regarding our inter-facility transfers, where we have people locked in for a longer period of time, our shorter runs, the 911 calls in town. It’s going to take a little longer to see if we’re actually saving time on the majority of calls, on certain types of calls or not.”

Vermillion-Clay County EMS also acquired another ambulance on Aug. 8, bringing its total up to three. The ambulance will be going into service on Sept. 6 at 7 a.m.

Huber said the new vehicle is “lacking a couple of vitals,” but is almost done.

The width in the compartment layout is “as close as legally possible,” he said, and has a center mount, which allows access on both sides of the patient.

“The inside layout has changed a little bit as far as what equipment is where in ease of access,” he said. “Our high-risk equipment that we need to have within 30 or 40 seconds is moved closer to where the provider is in a seated position rather than having to get up and take a step or two across from where he was.”

According to its official Web site, The Vermillion-Clay County EMS responds to approximately 800 calls per year, both emergency and non-emergency.

It also provides standby services for fires, athletic events and community functions that total approximately 2,500 man-hours each year.


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