EMS apps to improve patient care

Here are five smartphone apps EMTs and paramedics can use during patient assessment and treatment

Technology is never a substitute for knowing your treatment protocols, medications, equipment sizes or IV drip rates. But smartphone apps can be invaluable on critical calls to help document your work, verify your treatment plan and improve patient care, leaving you more time to spend with the most important thing … your patient.

Here are five smart phone apps that I keep on the home screen of my iPhone, ready to call upon at a moment’s notice.

1. Full Code Pro

This free mobile app by the American Heart Association allows me to document care during a cardiac arrest. The app makes it easy to document critical interventions such as starting CPR, placing advanced airways, delivering a defibrillation shock or administering a medication. The app also has a timer which alerts me when I am due to perform a pulse check, analyze the ECG rhythm or administer another dose of epinephrine. Lastly, I can press the CPR metronome button to ensure the crew is performing compressions at the proper rate of at least 100/minute.

2. Pedi STAT

Treating critical pediatric patients often requires calculating the appropriate mg/kg medication dosage, along with finding the proper size for equipment such as endotracheal tubes, laryngoscope blades and orogastric tubes. The Pedi-STAT app allows me to access this critical information by using the child's age, weight and length of a child or with the traditional colors found on the Broselow tape. The app also has information about calculating a Glasgow Coma Scale using pediatric criteria, normal pediatric vitals signs and the proper fluid resuscitation rates. Note: before using Pedi-STAT for medication dosages, make sure the dosages are the same as your local protocols. When in doubt, always refer to your protocols of your agency or consult medical control.  

3. Drug calculator

It’s 3 a.m. and you’re called to sedate a combative patient showing signs of excited delirium. Your patient weighs 180 pounds (approximately 82 kg) and your dose for ketamine via an intransal injection is 2mg/kg (approx 164 mg in this case). You have 500mg of ketamine in 5 mL. How many mLs do you give?

Instead of confirming the dose you have in your head by doing the long-form math of "Desired Dose times Dose on Hand, divided by the Volume on Hand," this Drug Calculator app verifies the math for you. Once you arrive at your answer — in this scenario 1.6 mL — be sure to repeat the calculation and verify it with a partner to ensure accuracy. It is better to spend an extra minute on the math, than spend hours regretting giving the wrong dose to your patient which could compromise the first rule of patient care … do no harm. Editor's note: This app is no longer available on the iTunes app store. Share suggestions for a different drug calculator app in the comments. 

4. Drip infusion - IV drip rate calculator and timer

Some medications like amiodarone, used for a patient in ventricular tachycardia with a pulse, or tranexamic acid (TXA), which is used to control unwanted bleeding in a severe trauma patient, are injected into 100 mL of normal saline and infused over 10 minutes. Advanced Burn Life Support recommends administering 500 mL of normal saline over the first hour for a severely burned adult patient. The Drip Infusion app allows me to successfully administer such infusions by selecting my drip set (10 gtt/mL, 20 gtt/mL), along with the volume and time in which it is to be infused.

In addition to learning how many drops per second you’ll need, the app also has a blue progress bar that flashes to give you a visual way of adjusting your drip rate and an alarm that sounds when the infusion should be finished.

5. Tarascon Drug reference app

When I began working as a medical assistant after earning my EMT certification, the first thing the doctor gave me was a Tarascon Pharmacopoeia pocket guide to use when I was checking patients in and triaging them. Now, you can find this valuable information about thousands of medications — from their class, dosages and side effects, to their form and warnings — on a single app.

I click on this smartphone app every time a patient lists a medication that I’m not familiar with or need to freshen up on. By consulting this app regularly, you’ll be surprised at how much knowledge you acquire about medications used for cardiovascular complaints, neurology, gastroenterology, pain and endocrine conditions, among many others.   

Your smartphone app recommendations?

Have you downloaded an app that EMS professionals need to know about? Let us know in the comments.

Note: The author does not have any financial or ownership interests in these apps.

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