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McClure: SyncPen Technology Will Save Paramedics Time

Submitted by Roger Adkins

Ripley, W.Va. — Having tackled the transition to paperless electronic medical reporting in order to make it easier for the state to handle massive volumes of Emergency Medical Services data, local EMS supervisors and crews in the field still find themselves coping with the increased time it takes to fill out an electronic patient care report.

Getting a paperless stream of data to state officials for overall medical reporting has no doubt made the statewide system more efficient, but crews in the field have to fill out their medical reports on laptops using data entry systems that are not always time-efficient, said Steve McClure, Jackson County EMS supervisor.

Now, it appears that new technology will allow a “marriage” of the two forms of medical reporting. The state will be able to receive all of the necessary data electronically to eliminate paper, and medical crews will still be able to write out their reports more quickly by hand using advanced pens that, in addition to functioning as a normal ink pen, collect the data electronically so it can be sent to state officials.

McClure said he understands the need to go paperless when it comes to statewide reporting.

“Before, we did state mandated paper run forms, but the sheer volume was astounding. My service runs 5,000 calls a year. That’s just Jackson County. The City of Charleston runs 15,000. If you just took city of Charleston and Jackson County, that’s 20,000 calls,” McClure said.

The amount of paperwork for those systems alone was staggering, he said.

“There are well over 300 EMS systems in West Virginia. I couldn’t even imagine the paper. The electronic run reporting is so good because we use one of leading electronic reporting systems in the nation. When we enter our runs, every morning at 10 a.m. and every night at 10 p.m., every run gets sent to the state and collated through the computers instead of five or six people sitting at a desk and trying to figure out what’s going on,” McClure said.

So, on one hand, the paperless system makes statewide reporting much easier, but it’s not the best situation for medics in the field because entering the data into a computer isn’t as fast as filling out a form by hand, McClure said.

Also, the term paperless is a bit of a misnomer. Even with digital reporting systems, all paperwork is not eliminated.

“There is still paperwork we have to do,” McClure said.

A different form of reporting is starting to catch on and it’s one that McClure and others feel is the perfect marriage of paper and digital.

The solution seems to be SyncPens, which are pens that function as normal ink pens, but also efficiently capture all the written information in a secure, encrypted digital format that can be sent to the state electronically. The pens use up-to-date technology to get the job done and cost about $400 each, much less than the $3000 laptops currently installed in county ambulances.

“So now instead of trying to sit down and type everything on a keyboard, or highlight a dropdown menu and use the touchpad and go through the motions, where it’s so easy to just hit the wrong thing, it’s a combination of writing and digital now, which fits us better. We are used to writing,” McClure said.

“Monroe County has already started using it. They blazed a trail for us. They’re telling us what we can do before we ever start, which is great.”

Jackson County will be the second county in the state and one of only 25 in the nation to use the new technology.

“If I have all four ambulances out on call, that means the first ambulance that gets back in service better be ready to go on a call. But if they’re working on the computer, they’ve got to finalize a report before they start a new one so they have to finish. The pen will hold upwards of 50 pages of information before it gets full. They can go ahead and start a new one before finishing the information.

They can do 10-15 reports before they have to download it,” McClure said.

McClure said the Monroe County EMS officials helping Jackson County with their program are enthusiastic about the system.

“The guy from Monroe said it was most perfect system he’d ever seen. He said it was the perfect marriage of paper and digital,” McClure said.

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