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Supporting First Responders and Hospital Staff in a Disaster

Posted Oct 22 2008 6:27pm

One aspect of the healthcare continuum that should receive more attention is support for first responders and hospital staff in the ER and beyond. In a disaster situation, this involves complex processes in chaotic environments.

We’ve been studying this issue and developing an innovative way to use information technology systems to support all involved personnel by:

  • Deploying a "man-down" device that detects when a first responder, such as a firefighter, is not responsive and needs assistance.
  • Helping locate and extract victims from buildings in a way that minimizes risk to both the victims and the first responders rescuing them.
  • Guiding first responders in selecting appropriate trauma centers by mapping victim needs to facility capability.
  • Giving timely feedback about each victim’s health profile and condition to healthcare providers from first encounter through transport to the nearest trauma center equipped to handle the victim.
  • Monitoring the availability of resources (including personnel, beds, medications, equipment, etc.) in the treatment facility and informing staff of shortages, so prescribed care is delivered with minimal disruption.
  • Alerting clinicians when a patient’s plan-of-care orders are not carried out in a timely manner, in order to help avoid adverse events by speeding plan of care adjustments.

In a disaster, pandemic or terrorist attack, this system supplies ongoing critical feedback that (a) facilitates coordination of care between first responders, trauma center staff and other hospital personnel and (b) enables rapid response when problems arise. It includes new types of software systems that work in tandem with a Personal Health Record (PHR), Electronic Health Record ( EMR ) and Computer Physician Order Entry (CPOE) applications. It also support the Saint Francis University’s Center of Excellence for Remote and Medically Under-Served Areas (CERMUSA) ambulance of the future, which is capable of providing continuous voice and data transmission through a variety of communications links, and has the ability to transmit and receive live video through a satellite video conferencing system.

I think few would argue that we should be doing everything possible to prepare and support first responders and ER staff for large scale crises.

We have a document that shows how these technologies would be used in a disaster, pandemic, or terrorist attack. For a copy, please contact me (Steve Beller) at sbeller@nhds.com

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