Coffee County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) will represent Tennessee in the 2017 National Healthcare Coalition Preparedness Conference. The event will be held in San Diego on Nov. 28-30.
EMS was chosen among more than 170 applicants for utilizing a digital tracking system during the Bonnaroo Music and Arts festival this year, according to EMS Chief Michael Bonner.
The system, called HC Patient Tracking, allows recording vital information through a phone app. This information then can be shared with healthcare facilities, which makes following the development of a patient more efficient.
Bonner and EMS Operations Manager Paul Tibbs will represent the state.
The conference, which is in its sixth year, aims to expand learning opportunities for health care coalitions. During the event, health care agencies have the opportunity to connect and share experiences.
“Health care coalitions are being formed across the country to raise funds and help health care facilities and emergency agencies,” Bonner said. “This conference helps with health care coalitions’ preparedness. An important aspect of preparedness is being ready for evacuations, floods, tornadoes and other disasters.”
That’s where the patient tracking system used by EMS comes in.
“Here in Coffee County, we used the state’s patient tracking system during Bonnaroo this year,” Bonner said. “Previously, during Bonnaroo, we just used disaster tags to train our people how to use those tags, should a disaster happen here.”
The music festival, which is a four-day event, allows EMS to practice various emergency tactics.
“Because Bonnaroo is a scheduled event and we have time, we sometimes try different approaches to see if we would like to use them in disaster situations. That’s why we used this tracking system.”
The system was purchased by the state and is free for emergency medical services and health care facilities in Tennessee. The music event offered the perfect platform for testing the system.
The tracking app provides first responders with a reliable, fast and secure way of gathering vital data and sharing it with both emergency and health care systems. Patient tracking gives medical professionals the necessary information to make timely and informed lifesaving decisions.
Since the app is installed on mobile phones, no additional tools or devices are necessary. In the past, Bonner said, EMS has experimented with similar tracking systems. However, each first responder had to carry a scanner for scanning the barcodes on the disaster tags. Additionally, they had to later enter the information in a computer, according to Bonner. These steps can be eliminated with the HC tracking system.
Responders and medical personnel can add details to the records, such as detailed patient information, vitals and injuries, as well as audio, images or video. Any items created through the system will be associated with a specific person throughout the cycle of care.
“Each disaster tag has a barcode on it, and the responders scan the barcode,” Bonner said. “If it’s a noncritical patient, first responders may have the time to enter the name. But if they don’t have time, they’ll just scan the barcode. When the patient with that barcode gets to the hospital, (medical professionals) at the hospital will scan the same barcode and know more about the situation. Then, if the patient is transferred to a higher-rate hospital, that hospital will track that, as well.”
In some situations, patients can be sent to several different locations, said Bonner.
“In a situation like the Boston Marathon bombing, it’s hard to keep up with where everybody goes – you have many patients going to multiple directions. Here, we know everybody would go to a local hospital at first. But the local hospitals will be overloaded really quickly, and we will take patients to Warren County, Franklin County or Bedford County. We are going to start weaning some of the noncritical cases to allow the closest hospitals to take care of the most critical cases.”
In addition to entering and saving data, the system allows first responders and medical professionals to take and share pictures and videos.
“You can take a picture of a building, which has collapsed, or a burning bus, for example, and send the picture to the hospital,” Bonner said. “Before the patients even get there, people at the hospital will know what’s going on and what they are expecting to come in. If they see a bus on fire, they are going to know to set up their burn center.”
The more knowledge and details can be shared between everybody involved in the medical treatment, the better the patients will be served, according to Bonner.
“When I was in EMT school, they taught us to paint a picture to the doctor (on the radio),” Bonner said. “With the tracking system, which has a capability for taking photos, I can show a picture; I don’t have to describe it.”
Additionally, the system stores the information and medical professionals can later refer to it, if necessary.
“We can go back and see the data later, and we can add something to it, if more information becomes available,” Bonner said.
There will be no cost for EMS and Coffee County for the trip to San Diego and participating in the conference.
“We are excited that we were chosen,” Bonner said. “And we are excited to go because we will be able to show what we have. We will be able to see what other states have, too.”
It will be a learning experience, said Bonner.
“There will be various classes and sessions,” Bonner said. “This trip doesn’t cost anything and will give us a national exposure. We know what Bedford County and Nashville do, but we don’t know what they do in Kansas and California.”
Elena Cawley may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.