By STEPHEN KENNEDY
Although budgets aren’t as tight they have been in recent years, there are still too few tax dollars allocated to first responders to make chiefs stop looking for ways to be more efficient. Doing more with less is simply the new norm. The challenge here is to find ways to keep-or even improve-operational readiness levels while also looking for savings in the budget. As such, personnel and equipment cuts are the absolute last options to be considered, while other strategies aren’t so apparent. There are, however, great potential savings in taking an honest look at tasks that are keeping your teams from doing their primary jobs. For the Sumter County (FL) Fire and Emergency Medical Services, we saw the ability to streamline our patient reporting process as a way to save resources.
Completing 30 to 45 minutes of reporting paperwork per call on returning to the station as well as the task of having multiple reports on which to catch up were frustrating to our EMS team. The mission is critical but also extraordinarily time consuming. Documenting the events of each call is essential for many reasons including quality control and medical direction oversight. However, EMS teams are left with two choices: take time during the call to jot down everything going on or actually care for the patient in need of services right then and there. There really is no alternative; the paperwork gets put off until later in the shift even if the memories of all that went on become compromised as a result.
|Photos courtesy of SafetyPAD EMS Information Systems.|
We looked for ways around this and decided to implement a standalone electronic patient care reporting (ePCR) system that could streamline this process. We reviewed many solutions, and we eventually selected SafetyPAD. We felt SafetyPAD had the best track record for delivering a robust reporting system to numerous fire and EMS departments around the country while also giving us the flexibility and ease to customize the system to fit our needs. We don’t have any “do-over” money, so the money allocated to this project had to see a return, and quickly.
Since bringing it online, we have found the ePCR platform allows our teams to accurately generate prehospital patient care documentation in the field in real time. In doing so, we can better collect, use, and share incidents as well as patient data on scene. This empowers our EMS teams to focus more on the patients and less on the paperwork.
The potential benefits to a department’s budget are significant. We project that the ePCR platform will give us the near equivalent of having another team in the field. When we factor in the more than the 4,400 medical calls to which our department responds annually, we will have saved more than 3,000 staff hours. Moreover, the SafetyPAD system enables us to better understand our teams’ usage rates over the course of any given time period at the click of a mouse as well as deliver greater insight into the type of calls encountered, the skills required to handle them, and the support needed to make them successful. This creates efficiencies that also provide additional savings. But, more important, it makes us a better agency for our taxpayers. SafetyPAD offers other benefits to our agency including compliance with state and federal reporting mandates as well as streamlined support in quantifying our budget requests to county officials with empirical data.
As surprising as this may be to some, reviewing our reporting process and looking for ways to streamline it through technology resources can provide real and significant savings to fire and EMS departments. It can also be a great relief to those in the field who dread the paperwork aspects of their job. Now, they can have a better system to document their activities and take care of those who need their undivided, expert attention.
STEPHEN KENNEDY is deputy chief of administration for Sumter County (FL) Fire and Emergency Services.
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