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Computer Automated & Aided Dispatch

ESO Staff

In an increasingly connected world, technology is making response for prehospital care faster and more efficient than ever. Today’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) technologies offer greater situational awareness, smarter use of resources, and overall better communication between the station and the field. All of these things add up to faster response times and improved chances for positive patient outcomes.

What is Computer-Aided Dispatch?

Computer-aided dispatch (CAD), also known as computer-assisted dispatch, is a method of using software tools and technologies to direct and monitor responses to emergency situations. Using a combination of radios, laptops, and even smart devices, dispatchers can help get the right resources to the right location and ensure that they are prepared for what they’ll find on arrival.

The Global CAD Market is expected to quadruple by the year 2028, with the creation of 5G markets across the country boosting communication capabilities for emergency response crews. CAD tools offer numerous benefits in prehospital care, including:

More Complete Call Information

Many CAD tools provide scripts for dispatchers based on the type of incoming call. Customized questionnaires used for car accident, potential drowning, heart attack, or other categories can ensure the dispatcher is gathering the most useful data points. Capturing information like if the patient is breathing, wearing a medical bracelet, or if bystanders have started CPR or used a defibrillator prepares crews to jump into action immediately when they arrive.

Real-Time Route Updates

Response time is not only an important performance metric for EMS agencies. It can be directly tied to survival rates for certain conditions like STEMI, stroke, and cardiac arrest. CAD can assist drivers by providing route updates and road conditions, helping them make the best choices when responding to a call. Traffic and route information can also help direct crews to their choice of destination hospital, as well as activate air medical services.

Caller Notes and Status

CAD tools often offer dispatchers the ability to update the call record and narrative while the ambulance is still en route. Crews can access the record on their laptops, tablets, or smartphones to see real-time updates for any changes in patient condition or additional information offered to the dispatcher. This can affect their mental preparation for what they will encounter on scene, as well as help them form a plan of action before arrival.

More Accurate Locations

Rather than depending on a caller’s description of location, CAD tools can access Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data or phone location services to give accurate location information for the caller. This can be especially helpful in remote locations and in disaster responses where crews can use their CAD interface to arrive on scene more quickly.

Situational Awareness

During a call, a dispatcher may also be able to glean additional situational information that can be helpful to crews. Background noise or comments from the patient or bystanders may give a better picture of what to expect upon arrival. Information like gate codes or lock box information can save valuable time. Some CAD tools allow dispatchers to instantly access complete information on a vehicle, property, or person (including prior incidents or outstanding warrants). Increased situational awareness can also keep crews safer during their response by being aware of any threats or potential danger on scene.

Crew Availability

CAD tools can help dispatchers monitor in real-time the location and status of their crews. Typically displayed on a map of the service location, bus locations can be used by dispatch to see which crews are available, which could arrive the quickest, and even which are equipped with the proper tools or certifications for specific incidents. This awareness improves response times, uses crews efficiently during their shifts, and ensures that resources are in the right place at the right time.

Communication with Hospitals

Increased communication with destination EDs can expedite the transfer process and better prepare hospital staff for high acuity calls. For example, pre-activation of cath labs and teams can make a life-and-death difference for STEMI patients, while alerting ED staff to a change in a patient’s condition may alter the supplies being prepared. Some CAD tools allow for secure video streaming and texting between EMS and hospital, cutting down on radio noise and calls.

Future Potential Technologies

As CAD tools and capabilities continue to grow, developers are looking for more ways to integrate them with other existing communication tools. Potential future use cases include integration with drone technology for better disaster and search-and-rescue response. Smart devices and interfaces in homes may soon be able to give a dispatcher more real-time data during a call, or even initiate the call itself. Wearable medical alert devices or even smart watches may become more helpful in notifying emergency services and delivering real-time patient data.

Smart technologies and better connectivity mean CAD will play an important role in emergency response for years to come. Increased situational awareness – from the moment the call comes in to the time the patient is handed off at the ED – means a safer and more efficient experience for patients and crews alike.

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