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A transition to rugged technology

STAR Ambulance’s journey to enhancing patient care delivery and the employee experience

Digital workflows have become critical for EMS teams. Instead of spending time filing paper forms, EMTs use laptops and tablets to file them electronically in minutes. This ensures hospitals receive the context they need to deliver the highest level of patient care possible. However, when deploying technology to EMS teams, devices must be able to stand up to the rigors of the work. For mission-critical ambulatory services, rugged-built solutions are the only answer.

The digital journey

At Statewide Transfer Ambulance & Rescue (STAR), the majority of our team is comprised of field personnel who provide transportation for emergent, non-emergent, bariatric and critical care patients and special events. We started using digitized EMS charts 5 years ago to streamline information sharing with hospitals and simplify our revenue workflows. Before we could take full advantage of these electronic charts, we had to equip our EMTs with mobile devices. At first, we deployed consumer-grade tablets to each ambulance. In addition to filing paperwork electronically, our employees used the tablets to clock in and conduct rig checks, saving them time and minimizing the amount of physical paper we had to file.

Since digitizing our workflows, STAR has expanded to service more parts of Indiana. But, as we grew, we began experiencing more issues with our tablets. We found that the consumer-grade devices we were using couldn’t stand up to the rigorous environments our employees face on a day-to-day basis. Even though we had purchased extra third-party accessories, like casings, to make the tablets more durable, they still couldn’t survive the drops and spills.

Frequent device repairs posed a challenge, as our crews are spread out across so many locations, and manufacturer restrictions meant our local IT provider couldn’t service the devices. Instead of a quick local repair or software update, we had to ship the devices to the manufacturer, which meant our teams spent even more time without a working tablet.

With our crews transporting an average of 60-70 people per day, we can’t afford device downtime. Without a working device, our teams couldn’t file their electronic charts immediately after service calls, so hospital staff had to wait to receive critical background information about patients. Often, we had to replace the devices, which was costly – especially as we also had to purchase new third-party accessories to accommodate the updated sizing and ports of newer models.

The investment in rugged computing

Instead of deploying yet another consumer-grade device, we decided to invest in a rugged solution with greater durability.

We chose Panasonic Connect’s TOUGHBOOK G2, which offers a flexible two-in-one design. Its rugged features support clear readability – even during extreme sunlight – and a seamless touch experience. Its durable and flexible design prevented us from having to purchase and outfit the devices with third-party accessories, like rugged cases. And thanks to the device’s user-friendly design and seamless software integration, we didn’t have to spend time and resources training our teams on use of a new tool.

Our EMTs use Traumasoft software downloaded on their TOUGHBOOK G2 devices to complete their daily workflows in less time. They use the device to clock in and run through their checklist to ensure the vehicle is equipped for upcoming service calls. After each transport, they also use the rugged tablets to fill out charts and paperwork. Without wasting time trying to fix devices or find spare keyboards and chargers, our teams can complete more reports electronically. For paperwork that’s not digitized, our crews can use their devices to take pictures of the documents and upload them.

These and other digital workflows enable our EMTs to spend more time interacting with patients and less time on administrative tasks– or, worse, on attempting to repair a broken device. From an operational perspective, we also benefit from a more consistent charting and record management process.

Our crews especially appreciate the rugged features of their tablets. The devices are easy to mount inside ambulances, and they can be used in the field regardless of weather conditions. Rugged device testing ensures that our EMTs can respond to an emergency on the side of the road in a rainstorm without worrying about their device breaking down.

In the rare event the devices need servicing, our local IT team can remote in to provide support while our crews are on the road. For any larger issues, the EMTs can contact Panasonic ProServices for a quick repair.

Prioritizing long-term investment in technology

For other EMS organizations looking to upgrade their device fleet, I cannot stress enough the importance of prioritizing your long-term investment over the short-term costs.

In our case, the TOUGHBOOK G2 is already on track to pay for itself with fewer repairs, replacements, and add-on accessories. We make up for any increased costs with the productivity and efficiency our teams achieve with the device, the enhanced employee experience, and ultimately, the improved service we give to our community.


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David Peck serves as operations director for Statewide Transfer Ambulance & Rescue (STAR) in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He has been with the company for more than 20 years after starting his career as a paramedic. In his current role, David oversees business operations, including the deployment of new technology and employee training.