Apr 02, 2012 Amanda Seef Uncategorized
A national trend is trickling down to local companies, as healthcare providers keep their finger on the pulse of new technology.
Western Area Volunteer Emergency Services, or WAVES, a Camillus ambulance service, has been using iPads in their rigs for about a year, getting the idea from the Greater Baldwinsville Ambulance Corps.
“We’ve always been a company that’s fairly progressive,” said Daniel Taylor, director of public relations and paramedic at WAVES. “We’re aware of technology and how much it can be utilized in our field.”
The paramedics and EMTs are using the tablet devices through a mobile WiFi network, logging on to a charting website. They’re able to log all the information about their patient in the system in an intuitive way. Once they arrive on scene after being dispatched, they can look to see if the patient has been treated by WAVES before. If so, that person’s medical history will be saved in the system, giving the paramedic access to allergies, previous diagnoses and other pertinent information. The paramedics are also able to record much more information about the patient’s demeanor and way of life.
“It allows for much more detailed charts,” Taylor said. “That can be very beneficial to us.”
The information isn’t yet being transmitted to the hospital — that’s still done through the LifePak, a device that monitors and tracks important information in a patient’s care, such as medication distributed, pulse and heart rhythms. Reports from the LifePak are being transmitted to the hospital prior to arrival, Taylor said. The next generation of those monitors will have Bluetooth capabilities, which could allow them to interact with the iPads.
The patient’s report from that day can nearly be completed on the device prior to the paramedics returning to the station. Typically, paramedics only have to scan hand-signed documents, such as HIPPA forms, at the station.
“On a busy day, saving 20 to 30 minutes on a chart, that may mean that provider working an 18-hour shift may actually get out on time,” Taylor said. “They were able to get their charts done on time, thanks to the iPad.”
WAVES was able to purchase the devices from the sale of ToughBooks, a rugged, bulky laptop the company previously used while on the road with patients.
An inventory of supplies is also being assisted by the iPads — the charting system allows paramedics to log how much of each item was used on that particular call.
“It actually helps me keep track of where the supplies are going,” said paramedic and WAVES Director of Support Services Glenn Randall. “As far as tracking goes, it makes ordering supplies easier. It let’s me be more proficient and allows us to budget more appropriately for a year.”
The company is working to increase the functionality of the device in the rigs.
Something they’re looking at is using FaceTime, a video calling app designed by Apple, to contact doctors at local hospitals directly, prior to arriving at the emergency rooms. Offering that kind of service could allow the paramedics to provide more direct care for the patient’s issue, once the doctor can physically see the patient or a possible wound or injury.
“FaceTime is technologically feasible but it hasn’t evolved to that yet. The iPad is a platform we can really grow on,” Taylor said. “This is a technology that is growing and evolving. It’s important that we were on this in the early stages.”
Both ambulance companies join Upstate University Hospital, which is encouraging the use of iPads, tablets and smartphones to check medical records while being treated.
Technology giants Mashable.com and Wired.com show the local companies are not alone — hospitals and healthcare providers are aiming to make the iPad be a stable and effective device in healthcare situations.
The tablet device is touted as being extra portable and can help most doctors save time, keeping them from collecting paper printouts of images and medical reports. Reports show Apple may be looking to make the medical community one of their niche markets, but that would require approval of the device by the Food and Drug Administration.
“People still see the iPad as a luxury device,” said Taylor. “I think it’s interesting healthcare is starting to adapt to these. They’re not just for fun.”