At King’s Daughters Medical Center in Brookhaven, MS, first responders are using an mHealth platform from DrFirst called Backline, which enables them to scan the barcode on a patient’s driver’s license to access six months’ worth of medication history. The tool gives EMS providers a better understanding of the healthcare needs of a patient, especially one who’s unconscious or unable to remember his or her medication history.
“You can’t get a history from a patient who isn’t responsive,” says Lee Robbins, director of emergency medical services at the 99-bed community hospital. “In the past, we could only get information from (patients) who are awake or are willing to give us that information. Knowing this information gives us a much better chance at a good outcome.”
In addition, EMS providers can use the connected health platform to send that data back to the hospital, giving ED and trauma staff a better idea of what that patient will need. That’s valuable time they can use to update the patient’s chart or order tests, such as CT scans or electrocardiograms.
“Time is very important – minutes or even seconds can have an impact” on a patient’s life, says Robbins, who would like to see tools like this integrate with the hospital’s EMR platform and include real-time communication between first responders and the hospital.
At Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh, NY, meanwhile, care providers are using an mHealth app called PreDX to get alerts on opioid abuse outbreaks in their community. When a number of overdoses or other data points is detected in a cluster by the platform, they’ll know to alert and prepare first responders as well as the ED.
“If we get that information on the front line, then we can mobilize,” says Kathleen Sheehan, the hospital’s director of emergency and trauma services. “It gives us a better chance to respond to an emergency and treat these people more quickly.”
With mobile devices like smartphone, tablets, laptops and even wearable devices that can gather and transmit information at a moment’s notice, health systems are finding new ways to improve care in the field, whether it be an accident site, someone’s home or the ambulance.
But as with all other telehealth programs, the key lies in making sure the right information is gathered and sent to the right recipient. Information on opioid abuse or disease outbreaks will only help providers if they know what outbreak to address, and medication data sent from the ambulance to the ED will help providers if that medication history has a chance of interfering with care.
For example, a male patient being transported to a hospital might not readily admit that he’s taking Viagra or Cialis, yet those medications contain sildenafil and tadalafil, which could cause one’s blood pressure to drop excessively if a paramedic uses nitroglycerin to treat chest pain. A quick scan of the patient’s medication history would prevent that from happening.
Moving forward (literally), telehealth advocates see ambulances and other rescue vehicles as more than transportation, but rather, extensions of the hospital. Armed with mHealth and telemedicine technology, they can replicate the ED and begin treatment long before the patient transfers into the hospital.
“Any tool that we can use that improves patient safety, care quality and patient experience is a positive,” says Robbins.