How EMS, patients benefit from rapid technological changes

Technological progress will continue to transform how we connect with our community, one patient at a time


Communicating information remotely has undergone a revolution of sorts. Letters carried by humans have been around for a millennium, first on foot, then followed by animals, boats, trains, automobiles and planes. Today, a mailed letter can arrive halfway around the world in two days, compared to the many months that it would have taken less than 200 years ago. The introduction of the telephone in the late 1800s shifted the focus of communication from reading to hearing information in real time.

Digital technology has continued that progress in ever faster cycles. It's hard to imagine that the dawn of the internet age was a mere 40 years ago. The digitalization of information changed the paradigm of what it means to communicate. Not only is it just words; it includes images, sounds, video and other forms of data crucial to banking, security and research.

We've experienced this information revolution as EMS providers. Most of us now digitize our patient care records and upload them to a server for processing and retention. We transfer information from our monitors wirelessly to our PCR tablets or laptops. Radios, cellphones and mobile data terminals operate on digital communication systems. Many of us receive our continuing education online (including our own EMS1 Academy). Telemedicine with physicians is improving the diagnostic capability of the field provider on the scene of a medical incident.

The pace of technology has made profound changes in how we communicate in our personal and professional lives. (Photo/Amazon)
The pace of technology has made profound changes in how we communicate in our personal and professional lives. (Photo/Amazon)

Technology is also contributing to a network of emergency care information for the community. The public can watch videos online to learn critical skills such as chest compressions, naloxone administration and tourniquet use.

Consumer products, like the Amazon Echo, provide critical, just-in-time information about CPR, heart attacks and stroke. Mobile apps, like PulsePoint, alert citizens with medical training to respond to nearby critical incidents and locate an AED if needed.

Emergency response activation

For all of these great technological developments, we're still lagging at where it might be most crucial, the activation of an emergency response. Despite present day technology, we continue to rely on the verbal descriptions provided by victims and eyewitnesses as to what's occurring on the scene.

Most, if not all of us, have had the experience of being dispatched to an incident that turned out to be nothing like what was reported. While not a panacea, having live video could be helpful in the initial triaging of 911 activations.

Tech-driven medical alert systems could provide information about a patient's history and current vital signs to the communication center. Widespread use of texting can enable the nearly one million people in the United States who are deaf or hard-of-hearing to communicate quickly in an emergency.

Certainly the issues of data security is huge. I suspect that more than a few of us have had some private information compromised. I also believe that this is a transient issue that will be resolved in the long term. Personal liberties may also be involved, but a well-informed consumer can make a decision of what information to make available to emergency responders.

The pace of technology has made profound changes in how we communicate in our personal and professional lives. When it comes to EMS, technological progress will continue to transform how we connect with our community, one patient at a time.

About the author

Art Hsieh, MA, NRP teaches in Northern California at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. An EMS provider since 1982, Art has served as a line medic, supervisor and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook writer, author of "EMT Exam for Dummies," has presented at conferences nationwide and continues to provide direct patient care regularly. Art is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Contact Art at Art.Hsieh@ems1.com and connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

  1. Tags
  2. CPR
  3. EMS Education
  4. EMS Training
  5. Patient Assessment
  6. Patient Care
  7. Patient Handling
  8. Technology

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