How One Fire Agency Made the Switch to More Useful Data
For today’s professional EMS and fire agencies, data analysis is a necessary component of daily operating procedures. Not only does it ensure that your agency remains in compliance and can complete all required reporting, but it can make a real impact in the quality of your operations and even improve outcomes in your community. For most agency officers and administrators, however, data analysis is most likely not their first area of interest or professional background. They may be wondering how to go about collecting and accessing their data, how to know which data is important, and, finally, how to extract the key takeaways that lead to real-world improvements. It’s a common challenge that can keep agencies from turning their stores of data into actionable, useful information.
Making the ePCR Switch
Recently, Metro West Fire Protection District in Western St. Louis County took steps to leave their clunky, outdated ePCR tool. In its place they wanted a more streamlined and powerful data analysis suite specifically designed for easier access to their incident data. They made the switch to the ESO Electronic Health Record (EHR) and ESO Health Data Exchange (HDE) software tools in an effort to make its data more actionable, find easier ways to share data internally, align department metrics with national standards, and enhance training for personnel. With five fire stations,14 EMS units, and an average of 5,000 calls per year, the agency had plenty of collected data to utilize; however, its previous system made it difficult to run reports. Deputy Chief Medical Office Brad Shelton explained that after hearing about the ease-of-use of the ESO software from a colleague at a neighboring agency, he was intrigued. He knew that more efficient reporting and higher visibility in results were exactly what his team needed to make a real difference, both within the agency and in the community. “Once I saw the product, I knew that was what I was looking for. The ability to send stuff to staff and say, ‘Hey, look how well we’re doing!’ is phenomenal.”
Better Data, Numerous Benefits
Shelton explained that the benefit of the easier-to-use software tools was multi-faceted, and offered value in several different arenas. For example, the ability to get a high-level view of performance statistics over time offered a view into the team’s strengths and areas for improvement, and made it easy to benchmark against other similar agencies and national standards. Ensuring compliance and submitting required information for state and national organizations is quicker and easier than ever. Additionally, the real-time metrics supported practical staff training and feedback, giving insight into what protocol changes were really making a difference in team performance and patient outcomes. With the ability to easily run reports on a shift-by-shift or weekly basis, officers can identify top performers and give extra support in areas needing improvement. Finally, readily available data points made it easier to communicate with the public on the value being provided by the agency, as well as identify community trends or opportunities for new protocols. Not only do these types of metrics illustrate gains made in quality of care, but they help educate an agency on more of the characteristics of the service area.
Improved Collaboration with the Emergency Department and Beyond
An additional feature of the software – specifically the bidirectional data-sharing component of the HDE software tool – delivered a huge improvement in Metro West’s communication and collaboration with local hospitals, like Mercy Hospital St. Louis. Using HDE, hospitals can automatically send patient reports back to the delivering EMS agency, providing invaluable learning lessons, highlighting successes, and ear-marking areas for possible improvement. Rather than simply wondering what happened to a patient once a hand-off was complete, an EMS agency can now see the full picture and learn from what went well or was missed. Additionally, it helps build a more collaborative environment between emergency personnel and hospital staff. Following Metro West’s implementation of HDE reviews, an additional 8 local fire agencies followed suit, making it even easier to get a city-wide view of trends and treatments, as well as add helpful benchmarks.
Creating a Seamless Transition
Preparing for the transition to the new software tools, Metro West first brought all team members to one location for shift training. Then, they spent a month letting the team play with dummy reports to get more familiar with the platform, supplementing with additional training, and helping build confidence in the new platform as the go-live date approached. Once the switch-over was complete, Metro West immediately began to see not only improvements in team performance, staff training, and communication with other health providers, but overall better customer service and patient outcomes in its community.