Downey Fire goes digital

DOWNEY − In an effort to streamline basic care reporting performed by paramedics everyday, the Downey Fire Department launched an iPad-based system this month, replacing outdated paper forms with a digital interface that stores patient records electronically. “Going electronic allows for better documentation -- it’s also an efficient way for auditing and data structuring,” said Battalion Chief Bruce English. “The change was ordered by President [George W.] Bush with a target date of January 2014 to encourage medical entities to comply.”

Electronic patient care reporting, or ePCR, is the latest wave of technological changes in emergency medical services as data efficiency and auditing concerns become more pertinent for fire departments nationwide.

In addition to saving lives, paramedics are also required to provide heavy documentation after treating patients. English believes the new system allows Downey’s first responders to collect information much faster in an organized, digital system.

“We provide patient care, but we also have to document symptoms, EKG, blood glucose -- the baseline of what happened to the patient,” he said. “Electronic documentation allows us to transfer the data to hospitals and run our stats to prevent fallouts.

English also said electronic forms save time during the auditing process and accommodate more efficient billing.

“We expect to see a 10 percent increase in receivables this year with going electronic,” he said.

Contracting with local company Digital EMS, Downey Fire purchased the nearly $80,000 ePCR software jointly with the cities of Vernon, Compton, and Santa Fe Springs, splitting the costs to save money. For $20,000, Downey Fire bought the interface, employee training, and 10 iPads, now deployed in every paramedic unit, fire engine, and truck company.

“The graphical interface on the iPad looks just like the old paper forms...and with Siri, personnel can dictate narratives for better documentation,” English said. “One person will be caring for the patient and the other will be inputing the information.”



Published: April 24, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 02