The Benefits of SaaS and The Cloud for First Responders
You may often hear about “The Cloud” or SaaS solutions – short for “software as a service” – and wonder if and how this could benefit the business of first response, firefighting, and health care.
The truth is that many of the aspects of SaaS lend themselves quite well to use in the health care and emergency response industry, thanks to increased reliability, easier access, and lower upfront costs.
What exactly is SaaS?
SaaS is a term used to describe any Web-based software tools and data storage solutions that can be accessed remotely from any device, anywhere. Technically, SaaS differs from the commonly used term, “The Cloud,” because the cloud is the virtual location itself where SaaS tools live –usually a collection of computers, servers, and databases connected to allow users to share their combined power. The other two well-known cloud services are infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS).
Before the growth of SaaS tools, you typically had to purchase and install new software for your business onsite, with hardware that you had to buy and maintain, and licenses that you had to purchase full-out (with additional 15-20% annual maintenance and support fees).
With SaaS, however, you now can typically buy a yearly membership and simply log in to existing user tools that the SaaS provider hosts and maintains remotely. This means the worry and cost of maintaining the hardware and software versions falls on the shoulders of the provider. Additionally, many SaaS providers spend more money to ensure a higher degree of data security than most small or medium organizations could afford themselves, making SaaS solutions more secure. Most SaaS vendors also undergo stringent security procedures and audits that regularly test their data centers’ levels of security.
Benefits of SaaS and Cloud Technology for First Responders
Today a wide range of SaaS-based software tools are available for first responders, and offer benefits such as:
Improved Communication Between Providers:
Hospitals and EMS agencies are increasingly moving to the use of electronic patient care records (ePCRs) to make patient’s information easier to access, more accurate, and more streamlined throughout the care spectrum. A record can be started by an EMS agency and handed off in the emergency department, then on to nursing and physicians. This not only saves time for all providers, but helps ensure everyone is operating on the most updated information.
Additionally, other software tools allow hospitals to more easily share patient outcome data back with EMS agencies, allowing them to close the loop and provide real-world learning opportunities that help improve pre-hospital care. EMTs can see if their impressions were accurate, what they missed, and even see ways to improve procedures.
More Accurate Properties and Inspection:
Software tools with built-in inspection checklists can help improve community safety by ensuring your property and inspection records are more complete and updated, and easily accessible when needed. Progressive forms built into your inspection software can identify any mistakes or omissions as the form is completed, while scheduling functionality allows the inspector to schedule any follow-up appointments on site.
Additionally, access to digital reference libraries can make inspections more efficient as well. Once recorded, your digital inspection records stored via SaaS can be accessed for a wide range of uses, including during incident response. Your teams can access floor plans, photos, locations of hazardous materials, and even driveway and parking information to help create a more effective response plan.
More Informed Dispatch and First Impressions:
For fire departments, the use of SaaS makes it possible to deploy your software tools to your busses and fire engines, better equipping your team out in the field. With remote access to various reference databases and fire codes, it’s easier than ever to ensure impressions are as accurate as possible. Additionally, built in features like drop-down terminology menus and progressive forms that alert the user to mistakes, your ePCRs are more likely to arrive at the hospital complete and ready to be handed off with the patient.
Easier Analytics and Reporting:
Clean, robust data is key in decision-making, reporting, and planning. Being able to easily access and cross-reference data for your department or agency helps you not only paint an accurate picture of your operations, but is helpful in budget planning, QI projects, and even public relations campaigns. Additionally, you most likely need to report regularly to a collection of state and national organizations; digital data stored securely in SaaS help ensure you are always ready to report when needed. Finally, many grant applications require data giving insight into your organization over months or even years. Being able to easily collect and process this information with analytics software makes your agency operations more efficient and transparent.
More Efficient Billing and Patient Follow-Up:
Whether you are tracking patient billing or ensuring that care coordinators contacting patients post-discharge have all the pertinent information, a robust digital record keeping system that is easily accessible helps ensure more efficient and productive work. The ability to access complete patient information creates more productive communications and cuts down on the paper work for your staff. Digital records also help reduce human error, as some fields can be automatically ported over from documents like incident reports. Additionally, reliable, easy-to-use records systems help expedite reimbursements for your agency.
Optimized Personnel Management:
From ensuring your employees’ vaccinations are up-to-date to managing continuing education and training hours, software tools can save you hours of work. With an increased focus on addressing PTSD as well as exposure to hazardous materials and viruses, employers can find practical ways to improve the health and well-being of their employees by setting alerts on specific conditions and incidents. Digital, SaaS-based software for personnel management built specifically for first responders can alert you on a wide range of needed personnel follow-up actions, increasing safety and ensuring compliance.
As the world becomes more digitally connected and technology-based, it makes sense that the recording and maintenance of the massive amounts of data involved in heath care follow the same path. Thanks to SaaS solutions, this future is becoming more affordable and efficient for all providers at every point along the care spectrum.