Transitioning to Rugged: How EMS Agencies are Improving Operations

by | Public Safety

Behind the scenes of every emergency medical response, technology plays a crucial role in ensuring efficient communication, accurate data management, and swift decision-making. In the fast-paced and demanding environments of EMS agencies, relying on consumer-grade devices that aren’t built for withstanding the elements, supporting peripheral devices, or reliably connecting to external networks can cripple operations. EMS agencies that transition to rugged devices are sharing their success stories. These specialized devices are purpose-built to withstand the harshest conditions and provide unmatched durability, reliability, and functionality for emergency medical professionals. Take a look at how Panasonic Toughbooks are improving EMS operations with rugged devices.

STAR provides award-winning ambulance transport for emergent, non-emergent, special event, bariatric, and critical care situations. They currently employ 120 workers, the majority of whom are field personnel, and transport 20K people per year. In the last five years, STAR switched to digitized EMS charts to streamline operational processes. Since then, they have equipped ambulance vehicles with consumer-grade tablets. Using the tablets, EMTs can clock in digitally, conduct rig checks, and complete and submit charts and required paperwork following a transport. The team’s ability to efficiently and accurately complete charts is a critical step in the company’s revenue process.

As STAR doubled its size and devices became stressed in the field, its fleet began posing more hardware and software issues. Repairs also became more challenging with crews spread to diverse locations. STAR’s key challenges centered on device durability and functionality issues. Workers need to be able to operate devices whether outside, in a moving ambulance, at the hospital, or in a patient’s home. Despite purchasing third-party accessories, such as casings, to help protect the company’s consumer-grade devices, STAR still encountered frequent issues. Further, replacement devices often differed in form factor from the originals, meaning STAR had to buy new accessories, adding to the upfront cost.

While replacements were costly, repairs were time-consuming. Device restrictions often prevented local IT from servicing a malfunctioning device. They had to turn to the device manufacturer, which added to operational costs and lost time, hindering productivity. Software updates also required STAR to take devices out of service. It then required a different password for each device. With devices spread across seven locations, the IT team couldn’t conduct all updates in person. Instead, the team had to give out admin passwords, which wasn’t preferable. Transporting 60 – 70 people per day on average, STAR needed a reliable solution that would allow teams to complete operational tasks consistently and efficiently from any location.

When seeking out a new device fleet, STAR looked at Panasonic Connect’s rugged device family. It chose to deploy the TOUGHBOOK G2. Ready to use out-of-the-box, STAR didn’t have to search for extra accessories, such as a keyboard or rugged casing, to make the solution operational. Each of STAR’s ambulance vehicles is now equipped with a TOUGHBOOK G2 docked inside. Teams appreciate the mounting capabilities. They can use and charge the device in the ambulance without needing multiple cables for charging the keyboard separately, which was required with their consumer-grade devices.

The G2 is designed so that the glare from extreme sunlight doesn’t impact readability, and raindrops don’t interfere with the device’s touch sensitivity. 5G compatibility also supports STAR’s connectivity and data transfer needs, future-proofing STAR’s investment. Device support has become simpler now that the IT team can remote into a device or contact Panasonic ProServices if any issues occur. STAR also experienced a streamlined deployment process with its IT provider. It worked directly with Panasonic Connect to ensure STAR’s EMTs could use the devices as quickly as possible. Since deploying the TOUGHBOOK G2, the STAR Ambulance team has seen fewer IT service requests and an increase in efficiency.

EMTs use the TOUGHBOOK G2, equipped with Traumasoft, to complete their daily workflows. This provides increased productivity, allowing EMTs to spend less time on operational tasks and more time with patients. When crews arrive, they clock in digitally, many with the TOUGHBOOK G2. They also use the G2 to conduct rig checks, making sure the ambulance is stocked and well-equipped for the upcoming shift. With the TOUGHBOOK G2, crews can also complete reports following both scheduled and unscheduled transport. For required paperwork that’s not digitized, workers can easily take pictures of the documents and upload them. And, because it’s ruggedly built, EMTs can easily clean and sanitize the TOUGHBOOK G2 between shifts.

Overall, the STAR Ambulance team has seen the TOUGHBOOK G2 positively impact the speed, productivity, and efficiency of individuals, teams, and services. Peck says this is “so important in this business, as there is never a shortage of customers.” So far, there have been fewer IT service calls thanks to the durability and reliability of the devices. This minimizes delays within the workday and improves the worker experience. STAR’s business operations benefit from more consistent charting processes and record management.

Despite the initial upfront cost of replacing consumer-grade devices, the TOUGHBOOK G2 is already on pace to pay for itself, with fewer repairs, replacements, and accessory requirements. “Even though the TOUGHBOOK G2 was more expensive than our consumer-grade models, the costs came pretty close when factoring in the device replacements and extra accessories we often had to purchase to make our previous devices suitable for EMS workflows,” says Peck.

Pearl Solutions Group is a Panasonic Prime partner, helping EMS agencies throughout the Midwest equip their operations with mission-critical technology to allow you to focus on your front-line work and tech support that is on-call while you are.

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