How to buy EMS wireless handsets

When buying wireless handsets (mobile phones) for your units or personnel, consider these purchasing tips

I rarely use the portable or handheld radios for contacting my dispatch center, online medical control, or receiving facility. Instead — and like many of you — I use a mobile phone provided by my employer. I also know many EMS professionals who program all the needed numbers into their own personal phone and are even able to receive text messages from dispatch on their personal mobile phone while on duty. While we need to continue to provide radios in every ambulance, many of the functions once performed on a radio are now conducted with a wireless handset. When purchasing wireless handsets (mobile phones) for your units or personnel, consider these purchasing tips:

1. Recognize and understand the potential of a smartphone for more than voice communications. A smart phone with internet browsing access and data transfer capabilities allows EMS professionals to photograph incidents for examination by the trauma team at the trauma center, access the most current agency protocols on an intranet or internet site, or browse guides like Epocrates or Pepid for drug information. More and more apps are being developed for smartphones, like the Blackberry or iPhone, for BLS and ALS procedures.

2. Examine how a wireless handset will receive and transmit data with existing software and hardware infrastructure. Can text messages with call information location — and patient complaint — be transmitted to a wireless handset instead of by voice transmission on the radio?

3. Test capabilities of wireless handsets to receive and place calls throughout your service area. How much "dead" coverage areas can you tolerate?

4. Familiarity of operation and software interface. Almost every EMS professional is already using a wireless handset. Make sure to select a model that will be intuitive to use based on field personnel’s existing experience with wireless handsets.

5. Durability of wireless handset for daily use. Select a unit that has a long battery life, is easy to recharge in a vehicle, and can handle being used by multiple users.

6. Pick a vendor with a scalable plan of voice minutes, text messages, and data transfer. As your personnel becomes familiar with the wireless handset and the versatility of being able to send and receive data, access online resources, and send text messages, your needs are likely to change. Select a vendor with pricing plans that will fit your expanding usage.

Finally, consider a protection package for rapid replacement of wireless handsets for the likely event that a wireless handset is left in a residence, receiving facility lounge, or dropped on the road. You are likely need to replace a wireless handset quickly and when you least expect it.

Any other suggestions? Anything we missed in the list above? Leave a comment below or email with your feedback.

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