Benefits of Cloud-Based EMS
As communication methods for first responders and prehospital health care professionals continue to modernize – and sharing data digitally becomes more critical than ever – many EMS agencies are taking a harder look at how to ensure their data is more accessible but also more secure.
While one of the key benefits of digital patient records is that you can share them quickly and access them readily, a key concern is patient privacy and guaranteeing your entire data system is protected from both accidental and malicious intrusions.
The good news is that today’s “software as a service” (or SaaS) products are built on Cloud technology and offer a secure yet easily accessible environment for remote work. This is key to increase efficiency and maintain compliance in the EMS industry.
Outdated EMS Software and Solutions Fall Short
EMS agencies have long depended on pen and paper methods of documentation. Shifts were filled with forms and clipboards, and the inevitable need to enter and re-enter data from run reports. In the field, the efforts and focus on the patient’s immediate wellbeing often meant incomplete forms, making the handoff to the ED less than efficient, requiring more follow-up communication. Paper records also make it especially difficult to gather meaningful data and real-time reporting.
Additionally, communication forms like radios help relay patient information to the hospital more quickly and prepare various labs and specialists. However, they can be easily overheard in a hospital setting (technically creating a HIPAA violation) and add to the ED and hospital rooms’ overall noise levels, which recent studies show actually exceed OSHA recommendations.
While some agencies have been experimenting with hardware and software solutions to manage their patient and incident records, they may not have incorporated Cloud technology, creating a new set of issues. Hosting your own system on-site places the full onus on the EMS agency itself; from repairing broken hardware to ensuring you correctly deploy any software updates, systems hosted on-site tend to turn EMS professionals into unwilling IT support. The result can mean a lack of functionality and significant downtown.
Utilizing an SaaS system instead places the responsibility of security, maintenance, and support on the vendor, allowing the EMS agency to simply log in to the system when needed and put it to work for its purposes.
Obstacles to Implementing New EMS Software Solutions
As the reasons to implement a new digital records management system mount, some EMS agencies still face significant obstacles in making it a reality. As fire departments and EMS agencies are being asked to do more with less while often serving growing populations, it can be challenging to justify the cost of implementing a new system.
However, EMS agencies armed with examples of the value added by digital record systems can make a strong argument on the high return on investment. The insight into operations and processes delivered by real-time data can offer valuable insight into understanding the community and the most common incidents and risks. This is also vital for forming practical QI/QA projects as well as benchmarks for progress.
There may also exist a perception from veteran EMS professionals that a new system might have a steep learning curve or cause more work in the field. It’s important to find a vendor who offers hands-on, ongoing training for all employees, as well as unlimited users. Additionally, getting buy-in from your team during your vetting process for a new data system can help ensure alignment and that all concerns or questions your team may have been addressed from the start.
How EMS Cloud Solutions Outpace Analog Systems
The real-world benefits delivered by a Cloud-based solution for EMS are numerous and directly impact the agency’s operational efficiency and, ultimately, the care provided to patients. Results of utilizing a digital, Cloud-based system include:
Easier Data Collection
No one wants to spend their time inputting numbers into a spreadsheet and hoping they’re getting correct results on a calculator. However, data is key to painting an accurate picture of station operations and the community’s state. Going digital with your information gathering and processing is key to getting the most out of your data.
- How ePCRs are Easier to Document: Electronic patient care records’ popularity continues to rise both in prehospital and hospital care settings. Not only do electronic forms help ensure all required information is gathered and a common vocabulary used, but a digital record also simplifies passing along patient information to other members of the healthcare team, processing in billing, and getting reimbursed
Improved Data Analytics
From applying for grants to making requests at budget time, data is vital in supporting your case. The ability to access and present historical information for your agency, see trends, and track improvements can positively impact almost every aspect of agency operations. Many of today’s top systems incorporate analytics features to help you get the most of your data truly.
Improved Communication and Data Sharing with Hospitals
Utilizing digital records can also make it easier to work with your partnering hospitals. Training your team to utilize digital forms helps ensure they arrive with all necessary fields complete and easy to locate timestamps and medication records. Additionally, some bidirectional software available in the industry allows hospitals to easily share back patient records with the EMS agency, offering real-world learning opportunities about outcomes, what field diagnosis proved correct, and what symptoms might have been missed.
Easier Reporting to Local, State, and Federal Agencies
Likely, your EMS agency is already reporting to several organizations on a range of operational metrics. From NEMSIS to NFIRS, your data helps paint a more accurate picture of the state of the EMS and Fire industries. Additionally, you will most likely be asked for operational data by your governing bodies and possibly even some professional organizations and compliance officers. The ability to easily access the required data saves a significant amount of time and headache. Some of today’s top software even allows you to schedule your reporting to meet specific deadlines and automatically submit your information.
More Efficient Scheduling
EMS agencies and fire departments face unique challenges when it comes to scheduling. In addition to rotating shift schedules and hours on/off requirements, the variety of equipment and certification required can vary depending on open shift type. Digital software tools designed specifically for first responders address the pain points by automatically identifying workers qualified to fill an available shift, ease communication among team members, and even integrate scheduling data with payroll operations.
Newer EMTs are increasingly comfortable with a digital environment and are used to using their tablets and smartphones to access almost unlimited information. Utilizing Cloud technology for your EMS agency operations falls right in line with this, making it easy to access reference libraries, communicate with other health care professionals, and record patient symptoms in a visual, easy-to-use way. Additionally, you can create progressive forms that identify errors or omissions as they occur, ensuring new team members catch their mistakes as they go.
Data Security and EMS Cloud Software
In the past, protecting your EMS agency or fire department data was simple enough. Maybe you had an on-site infrastructure that maintained patient records, incident records, or fire preplans. Unfortunately, today people with bad intentions have become more adept at hacking into systems. There are cases of systems being hacked from CAD connections, phone connections, or even simple Internet connections that suddenly delivered control of the network to an outsider.
Cloud storage, however, is adding a layer of security to stored data. Trusted vendors can explain their verification process to you and show you their ongoing security processes that help keep your data safer. Additionally, you no longer have to worry about a piece of your hardware breaking down or going out of commission, compromising your operational readiness. Your SaaS provider should have extensive contingency plans to help ensure that its customers always have access to the data they need, exactly when they need it.
Learn More About the Next Generation of EMS Software
Taking your EMS agency into its next level of operations is tied directly to harnessing your data’s power and today’s emerging software technologies for EMS. Software tools from ESO, for example, are designed and supported by those intimately familiar with the EMS industry. These tools integrate with your existing systems to boost your efficiencies from built-in analytics, more straightforward field documentation, and more efficient scheduling and payroll.
Additionally, in real-time, the ability to truly see precisely what is going on in your agency, and turn that data into a story you can share with others, is invaluable. Improved operations mean more successful outcomes, happier patients and partners, more funding and grants, and faster reimbursements. It can benefit you at virtually every stop along the care spectrum.
Take a tour of the ESO software ecosystem for EMS now.