About 240 million emergency calls are made to 911 in the US every year. However some calls are more urgent than others, and some don’t even qualify as true emergencies. The challenge country-wide is to find a way to reduce unnecessary ambulance trips to ER for patients who don’t need immediate attention, so that those in dire need of emergency treatment can be seen more quickly.
The Houston Fire Department has embraced the challenge, using a rugged Panasonic Toughpad to come up with an innovative solution to the problem. In 80 percent of the cases where it was first utilized, the fire and EMS Toughpads were successful in totally avoiding costly ambulance trips and emergency room visits that were unnecessary.
Houston’s ETHAN Project Relies on Rugged Panasonic Toughpads
Houston’s Emergency TeleHealth and Navigation (ETHAN) Project was implemented with the fully rugged Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1, a lightweight mobile device built to handle the kind of tough conditions first responders face on a daily basis. These include drops and spills, bad weather, vibration (especially while traveling), bad weather and extreme temperatures.
According to program director, Dr. Michael Gonzalez who is also associate medical director for the Houston Fire Department, the project was originally created to incorporate consumer-grade tablets. They tested several devices in the field, and all were destroyed within about a week, he said.
The fact is that for the project to work, fire and EMS crews have to carry devices, and they need lightweight tablets that are built for purpose. Consumer-grade tablets simply don’t have the tough, rugged features Panasonic’s fire and EMS Toughpads have.
In addition to having the ability to operate flawlessly in even the harshest environment, the Toughpad FZ-G1 is the lightest, thinnest fully rugged 10.1-inch Windows 8.1 tablet on the market. It offers many other features including:
- A daylight-readable, glove-sensitive touch screen
- Enterprise-grade security
- A reliable 26-hour hot-swappable battery
It is these features collectively that enabled the Houston Fire Department to revolutionize its 911 emergency response system.
Motivation for the ETHAN Project
Previously every 911 call in Houston resulted in EMS personnel, paramedics and firefighters responding by getting to the patient’s location as quickly as possible. A preliminary evaluation would be done before the patient was taken in the ambulance to an ER doctor. This took, on average, about an hour, excluding the time spent in ER and completing records.
While this isn’t a problem if the person really does need emergency treatment, but when a patient could safely wait to see a healthcare provider either later on or the following day, they were essentially taking an ambulance out of the system for an hour.
How the ETHAN Project Works With the Panasonic Toughpad
Now Houston Fire Department’s first responders set up a videoconference between a trained emergency medical physician and the patient, using a Toughpad FZ-G1. The doctor reviews the patient’s vital signs remotely by asking questions that will enable him or her to make an informed decision of whether the ambulance needs to be sent out or not. If it isn’t necessary, the physician can assist the patient to make an appointment to see a doctor as soon as possible.
According to Gonzalez, patients and first responders are very positive about the project, and it gives staff the capability to solve the problem at the source. He said the second phase would give doctors flexibility to take calls and have videoconferences from anywhere, rather than from a fixed central location.
He said there was considerable interest from communities in other parts of the US keen to implement their own version of the ETHAN project using fire and EMS Toughpads.
Atlanta-based Mooring Tech Inc. is a trusted reseller of both new and used rugged Panasonic Toughbooks and Toughpads. Contact us to find out how we can help you.