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3 tips for introducing new technology into the prehospital workflow

Get buy-in and do more with less with these tips for implementing EMS software solutions

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“There is no doubt that the antiquated prehospital technology space is long overdue for disruption,” writes Gaurav Bhatia.

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EMS teams around the United States are facing a crippling workforce shortage. Unfortunately, this issue is nothing new. A recent survey of nearly 20,000 employees working across 258 EMS organizations found that overall turnover among paramedics and EMS personnel ranges from 20-30% annually. With percentages that high, ambulance services face 100% turnover over a four-year period. This long-term problem has been building for more than a decade, and has been further exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has gotten so unmanageable, that the American Ambulance Association recently issued a letter to Congress requesting urgent attention to and action on the matter.

These staffing shortages pose a threat to EMS teams’ ability to respond quickly to healthcare emergencies, especially in rural and underserved parts of the country. EMS personnel are facing surging demand, burnout and the overall emotional toll of a global pandemic. In turn, those in need of medical assistance can expect slower emergency response times and care. Fortunately, technologies, such as prehospital solutions, could help provide some relief.

Within the EMS community, where teams are constantly changing and onboarding new members, technology can help to provide better coordination – both with other team members and with receiving hospital staff. Some examples of this include giving leaders visibility into where resources are most scarce, and enabling them to make data-driven decisions about how to best allocate team members and other resources.

Leveraging technology to streamline EMS workflows is especially important when responding to calls for life-threatening conditions. For instance, when receiving a call for a condition such as stroke, treatment is a carefully crafted process and every minute is critical. EMS teams must follow a standardized protocol and quickly align across care teams to ensure the best possible treatment. Prehospital solutions can transform this process.

Despite the enormous potential of this new technology, the implementation across teams can seem like a daunting task to some. Too often, EMS teams and leadership get stuck in existing habits, making change all the more challenging. To help get your team on board and make more with less, I recommend these tips:

1. Provide abundant education and training

Before implementing new technologies, EMS teams must be confident in their ability to use the tools in action when the stakes are high. Holding thorough training and education courses are absolutely essential before the technology is used in responding to emergencies. If teams do not feel empowered or see the value proposition in using the technology, this can lower morale and further contribute to the current EMS hardships – and potentially weaken the EMS response time.

2. Find easy to integrate (and use) solutions

Find software that is easy to integrate into existing infrastructure. While many teams still use Toughbooks, they have many deficiencies. The software can be outdated, suffer constant breakdowns, lack customization and fail to meet the specific needs of individual teams and their available resources. More advanced, adaptable, and user-friendly tools are critical to reducing the burden on existing team members and making onboarding new ones an easier process.

3. Create a culture of innovation

Teams will not reap the full power of prehospital technologies until every individual is fully committed to utilizing them. When hiring new EMS personnel, teams should seek prospects who are open and willing to learn. EMS teams must create an environment that offers approachability to ask questions and holds open conversations on ways to improve.

There is no doubt that the antiquated prehospital technology space is long overdue for disruption. During a time of scarce resources and a keen focus on doing more with less, I encourage the EMS community to open their minds to new ideas and technologies and see the potential that prehospital solutions provide for a better managed emergency response for EMS teams and patients.


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Gaurav Bhatia is a product manager at RapidAI, using AI to improve clinical decision making and patient workflow in neurovascular and vascular care, empowering physicians to make faster, more accurate diagnostic, treatment and transfer decisions.