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County EMS Service Goes Paperless with emsCharts

The Jackson County EMS Service implemented a significant technological upgrade at the beginning of the year when they moved to a paperless reporting system, a move which EMS Director Steve McClure says will improve both the efficiency of the EMS as well as the service provided to all county residents.

On January 1, the EMS service switched from filling out paper documents from all EMS runs to a computerized laptop system utilizing EMS Charts software.

The switch means that, whenever an EMS crew goes out on a call, instead of filling out the required four to five pages of standard paperwork, run data will now be entered into a computerized program instead.

According to EMS Director Steve McClure, the push to go toward a paperless system was initiated a few years ago at the state level. He said the state wanted to establish a database for patients as well as a monitoring system for EMS departments across the state. With the sheer amount of paperwork involved in EMS reporting, an electronic database was the only logical way to go.
McClure said the move to an electronic system is not only more efficient for EMS crews, but is also a space saver.

“I have to store paper for seven years on adults, or two years after a child’s 18th birthday in a HIPAA-secured filing cabinet,” McClure explained. He added that the specialized filing cabinet alone cost the county $19,000.

For $20,000, nearly the same amount as the filing cabinet, the county was able to set up the new paperless system which included the purchase of six Toughbook-style laptop computers mounted in each ambulance.

“It’s the future and we’re on the leading edge, and that’s where we want to be,” McClure said.

Just a few weeks into the new system, McClure said the benefits of the new system have become very apparent. In the past, McClure monitored EMS call trending based on how calls were dispatched through the county 911 Center. With the new system in place, McClure can break down all EMS runs by specific medical criteria in a nearly real-time basis. He said this information can help not just with the EMS, but also with other agencies.

McClure said that, as a member of the Jackson County Anti-Drug Coalition, every month, he can now go into a meeting with current information on how many overdoses have occurred in the past month. Under the previous system, overdoses were often tracked as “unknown medical” problems.

“I can get a whole lot better picture on what the county is doing and any problems that are present,” he said.

Another issue that had become apparent in the past few weeks was an increase in the number of falls the EMS responded to. This could be attributed to recent cold, icy conditions in the county.
McClure said that once a larger database is built up with run statistics, the EMS service could use that data to begin preventative programs to help educate the public on how to prevent seasonal injuries.

Also, McClure said that once more trending information is collected, he can monitor how busy certain EMS stations are in the county and keep the areas staffed accordingly. Additionally, the new system will allow him to monitor a running inventory of supplies on each ambulance and streamline the ordering process for keeping those ambulances stocked.

McClure credits the county’s ability to purchase this state-of-the-art system was made possible through the passage of the Ambulance Levy in 2008.

“Thanks to the citizens of Jackson County and their tremendous generosity through the levy, we’re able to do this,” McClure said. “The reason we can do a lot of leading-edge things and the things we’re able to accomplish goes right back to the levy.”

McClure is already looking at new ways to utilize and improve the current system that’s been implemented.

The next step he’s looking at implementing is the addition of GPS and remote-wireless technology that, when synced with the county’s 911 system, will allow for better tracking of EMS crews and the ability for 911 dispatchers to send maps to first-responders of call locations to increase response time to emergency calls.

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