By Ed Colin
As government agency budgets continue to be strained, there is a now well-established edict for many to look at “all-in-one” IT solutions wherever possible. This is particularly true when pertaining to Fire and Rescue platforms.
For example, the prevailing thought is that, with some minor tweaks, a Records Management System (RMS) can also be used as an Electronic Patient Care Reporting (ePCR) platform. In doing so, government entities can get a better per-seat license price by leveraging the entire platform under one contract while also minimizing related internal maintenance and management expenses.
The problem is that, more often than not, the opposite is true.
Let’s expand on the RMS/ePCR example to illustrate my point. While on paper, the “all-in-one” argument makes sense, the systems have far different priorities. RMS platforms are designed to highlight trends and provide actionable data for operational and resource allocation. ePCR systems, on the other hand, are architected to assist EMT teams in efficiently documenting events during a highly stressful on-call situation and assist in diagnosis and dissemination of patient information to hospitals. Moreover, the maintenance and management costs will rise for at least one of the agencies as they try to “Jerry-rig” the technology platform to serve both purposes.
There’s a better way to procure IT systems, and it requires a change in thinking. Instead of looking at “all-in-one” platforms, agencies can be better served by evaluating systems for their ability to seamlessly integrate with other technology platforms without undue maintenance and management headaches. This allows two things to occur. First, the technology tools procured will be ones that are designed to service specific, mission critical activities instead of poorly serving several. The engineers and support staff behind these systems will have deep domain expertise in those unique arenas and continually work to keep up with the ever-evolving demands of their customers.
Second, and probably as important, the cost benefits in deploying platforms that can easily integrate with others is as good – if not better – than the “all-in-one” offerings from a maintenance and management standpoint. IT systems that offer application program interfaces will enable valuable information to be shared and exchanged without a rise in personnel expenses. It’s a big savings in terms of time and budget for many agencies.
Public safety agencies continue to face seemingly endless challenges, including streamlined business processes and reports, integrated field operations in real-time and compatibility across a wide variety of applications. Having an all-in-one platform that attempts to be a “jack of all trades” but “master of none” only impedes the ability for emergency services departments to do this. Instead, proven platforms that excel at specific reporting and dispatch while also seamlessly integrate with the other agency IT functions are essential. It’s the right option at a time when governments need to keep productivity high and budgets manageable.