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Posted February 14, 2013 EST

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Fire Rescue Looks To Purchase Laptops To Enhance Patient Care
Jackson County Fire Rescue is hoping a new bank of Panasonic Toughbooks will help enhance patient care as the medical team responds to emergencies in the field. The department received permission Tuesday to apply for a grant of $50,000 to purchase 10 of the laptop/tablet units. If the money is awarded by the Florida Department of Health's Bureau of Emergency Medical Service, the county would be responsible for 10 percent of the cost if the grant is approved as a rural assistance project, or for 25 percent if the state approves the grant as a general matching project, instead.

Equipped with Bluetooth and internal mobile broadband capabilities, the laptops would replace the aging Dell XFR computers now being used in the county's five ambulances. Fire Rescue Chief Tony Wesley would also be assigned one for use in his department vehicle, another would go into the rescue truck now on order for the department, and one would be assigned to the assistant chief once that new position is filled. Two would go into county fire trucks.

Lt. Paramedic Charlie Brunner is writing the grant in his first attempt at that task. He said the new computers are lighter and less bulky than the existing computers, making them more user-friendly in the field.

Brunner said the new computers are expected to enhance care by allowing emergency teams to immediately transmit vital signs and other critical data to receiving hospitals as it is being collected, rather than handing it over on printouts when they arrive with the patient at those facilities. For instance, hospitals would receive full readings from cardiac monitoring rhythm strips, from the point the patient is picked up by fire rescue through the time they arrive at the hospital. Currently, the hospital only receives a small representative strip of rhythm data on a printed out strip when the patient arrives.

The strips, vital signs and other care data would also be stored on the department's server, rather than being kept for seven years on paper. Brunner said this capability will not only reduce the amount of paper used and help solve storage problems, it will also be an important record available for quality assurance reviews and could prove vital in instances when legal issues surface regarding patient care.

Fire rescue, if the grant comes through, would also be able to communicate information from the laptops through the Computer Aided Dispatch system at the Jackson County Sheriff's Office. This capability will allow the EMS teams to communicate patient information more privately to hospitals, rather than broadcasting all of it via radio communications that can be heard by the public by way of scanners. Using the CAD system with the new computers would also help teams locate houses more quickly as they're dispatched to various locations, since the CAD system includes detailed maps they'll be able to access.

Brunner said the new computers would also help the office because of billing software that would be included. The system will also allow caregivers to see demographics for patients they have been sent to help more than once. Once the team has a patient on file, they can look up his or her previously entered address, date of birth, medical history, insurance information and other data.

Jackson County Fire Rescue responded to 5,930 calls in 2012, with 5,629 of those medical-related and the other 301 fire-related.

"That's pretty busy for five ambulances that cover 920 square miles," Brunner said. "We're really excited about this opportunity to get these computers in Jackson County and enhance what we're doing for the people of the community. They'll do a lot for us. They'll improve things in the field, help us in record keeping and eliminate a lot of work for the office staff, and make us a lot more paperless. The most important thing is that this will streamline the process of communicating patient information."

Brunner said the grant application, which Jackson County Commissioners approved for submittal on Tuesday, must be sent to the state by March 29. The local service should hear in about three months if it was awarded the money.

Written by Jackson County Floridan

Courtesy of YellowBrix - YellowBrix