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NEWSLETTER The Newsletter of the First Responder Technologies Program

Volume 2 Issue 10 October 2009


Electronic Medical Records Provide Paramedics with Real-Time Patient Histories

Paramedics treating victims of a mass casualty incident have little time to determine whether a patient has previously diagnosed conditions that could aect treatment, but they need such detail to ensure patients receive the best care. For example, if a victim has diabetes or allergies, he or she might be a higher priority during triage. This information may also change the way their condition is treated.

EMTs and paramedics can gain access to more than fteen emergency departments and more than thirty hospitals, giving them“a better picture of the whole patient medical record instead of what’s just right there in front of them,” said Tom Arkins, paramedic and Special Operations Manager with local hospital operator Wishard Health Services EMS.

To contend with potential mass incidents and even everyday ambulance runs, an electronic medical records system is providing patient histories in real time to paramedics and EMTs in the Indianapolis metropolitan area. For the rst time, local EMTs and paramedics can carry handheld touch-screen computer tablets that allow them to access patient records from previous hospital visits or ambulance transports via a secured wireless network. As with all medical records, the patient’s privacy is protected and only pertinent information is shared with authorized paramedics.

Wishard Health Services teamed up with the Indiana University School of Medicine and the health research organization Regenstrief Institute, Inc. to compile a records database. With an Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) grant funded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the partners built a system from the database for emergency responder use.

The $5 million electronic medical records project distributed about 200 Panasonic Toughbook computer tablets to the local paramedics. EMTs and paramedics can review a patient’s recent vital signs and labs in the eld from this database, said Dr. Charles Miramonti, assistant professor of clinical emergency medicine and deputy medical director for Indiana University School of Medicine’s division of out-of-hospital care. Additionally, the system will soon be able to display prior electrocardiograms.

The new system also improves upon previous recording practices, where paramedics had to take notes on paper, Arkins said. With the system, records can be organized, searched, and stored much more quickly and eectively. Another improvement from this system is that Indianapolis- area paramedics can now start entering information during a run before they even see a patient, said Dr. John T. Finnell, associate professor of emergency medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine and Regenstrief research scientist. The large buttons, graphics, and the touch-screen

interface of the computer tablets make it easy to stay organized and document patient treatment.

A computer tablet runs electronic patient care reporting software. Image courtesy of Medusa Medical Technologies, Inc.

The electronic patient care reporting and data management system has built-in security features. The Siren ePCR Suite software, developed by Medusa Medical Technologies, Inc., requires a paramedic to enter four data points – rst name, last name, date of birth, and sex – to access a patient’s history. If these


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