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Why real-time data is critical to EMS driver safety

Agencies should apply the same thinking that’s improved patient care to improve driver safety.

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The following is paid content sponsored by Zoll Data Management

Real-time data collection has become a standard in the EMS industry. But while developing means of getting and using real-time data in clinical applications has become an industry standard, that’s not the case in every aspect of an EMS worker’s job.

There’s a reason that real-time data collection has become such an integral part of the EMS playbook: it works and it works well. Being able to proactively adjust to changing circumstances is becoming increasingly important. In fact, the same philosophy of real-time data collection and adjustment can greatly improve one large aspect of the job: driving.

Chris Anderson, Operations Director for Bell Ambulance, Inc., noted that when his agency adopted ZOLL’s Road Safety System, the average span between events (incidents that would cause the system to provide feedback) went from 0.5 miles at the start to 125 miles in just three months.

An everyday part of the job

Driving is an everyday aspect of the job. It’s the one thing every EMS professional does on every call, even if you arrive to find that there is no patient or that the patient has chosen to refuse care. More than just being an integral part of the job, it is one of the leading causes of injury among EMS professionals.

“We’re constantly monitoring patients,” Anderson said. “We have advanced cardiac monitors and electronic patient care reports, so why don’t we use the same technologies – the same strategies – to keep ourselves and our patients safe?”

An ambulance represents a major capital investment. And without comprehensive data, you may not know how well you’re managing that investment. The best way to care for that investment is to have research to back it up.

Real-time data has multiplying effects. Data can tell you what you need and where you need it the most, meaning that you aren’t wasting resources with a “spray and pray” approach. You can determine what you will need in the future based on trends in the data. Having data can be a component of that planning process. Getting ahead of issues before they become too big to manage is a success in itself.

The ambulance is a moving billboard for your business. As such, it represents more than just an investment of money. Public perception is a valuable commodity for any business, particularly in an industry that interacts with the public in the way that EMS agencies do. You want to make sure that you’re putting your best foot forward at all times – and driver behavior is a large part of that.

“Our fleet drives an average of 1.3 million miles each year,” Anderson said. “Any time you have a number (like that) you’re going to have incidents. It’s just a matter of minimizing them.”

Moreover, the safer driving practices encouraged by the driver safety technology help provide a smoother—and more comfortable—ride for the patients, who shouldn’t get lost in this equation.

In addition, the driving data is a form of protection. Being able to prove that your driver was operating within clearly defined safety limits can be a boon were any legal issues to arise after an accident.

It’s not “big brother”

When people consider real-time data, especially when it relates to job performance, they often conjure the image of a watchful “big brother” tracking and judging their every move. However, this isn’t surveillance equipment designed to monitor and punish those who violate standards; it is technology that allows managers to discover trends in their workforce and make adjustments accordingly.

Anderson noted that once the system was up and running, unless there was an incident data was only monitored monthly, and even then it was mainly used to see who won the agency’s “Safest Driver of the Month Award.”

Data collection is an increasingly important part of all aspects of our lives. It’s no different when talking about on-the-job applications for EMS professionals. Whether those applications are clinical or driving-related, having—and using—the right data is light that leads the way into the future.