Source: Sherman Publications

Grant allows Addison FD to go paperless for patient reports

by CJ Carnacchio

May 08, 2013

It seems like the whole world is going paperless these days and the Addison Township Fire Department is no exception.

Thanks to a $6,163 grant from the Four County Community Foundation, Addison will be able to purchase all the equipment necessary to electronically fill out, file and submit reports regarding patients they transport to the hospital.

“We definitely want to thank the Four County Community Foundation for giving us a favorable review and awarding us this grant,” said Assistant Fire Chief John Beach. “We weren’t sure how it was going to go, but they were very helpful.”

Based in Almont, the Four County Community Foundation provides grants to communities and schools in Oakland, Lapeer, Macomb and St. Clair counties. Established in 1987, the foundation has awarded more than $6.5 million in grants. Last year alone, it awarded 253 grants totalling $284,000.

To this grant, the fire department will be adding matching funds of $745 in order to buy two Toughbook laptop computers, two charging stations and two printers. One set will go in each of Addison’s two ambulances.

Right now, unlike most public and private providers of emergency medical services, Addison still uses paper patient care reports, which must be filled out and submitted to the hospital whenever someone is transported there.

In the grant application, it was stated that Addison’s average turnaround time at the hospital is 34 minutes, ranging from 17 to 56 minutes. The longer times are attributed to filling out paper reports regarding complex incidents.

That’s a lot of time for Addison personnel to spend outside the township considering the department’s call volume increased by 36 percent from 408 in 2006 to 555 in 2012. The projection for this year is 560 calls.

Departments that use Toughbook computers decreased their hospital turnaround times to an average of 15 minutes, ranging from 5 to 20 minutes, according to the grant application.

The more time that Addison medics spend at the hospital doing paperwork, the less time they have to adequately cover the township.

Granted, Addison receives mutal aid from neighboring departments while its personnel are out of their service area, but the township’s distance from hospitals is an obstacle.

“There is no hospital closer than 20 minutes (on a good day) from the south end of our township,” the application stated. “If a patient prefers to go to any other facility and/or their condition warrants it, transport can take up to 20 minutes longer. This strains both systems.”

There’s also the extra time Addison’s fire personnel must spend once they get back to the station filling out and submitting an electronic version of the patient care report – on top of the paper one they just did – for billing purposes and for mandatory state and national data collection systems.

“We’re doing it twice on every call,” Beach said.

“This redundancy costs time/money (as) personnel (are) engaged in data entry rather than other daily duties,” the grant application stated.

The application indicated that upon returning to the station following a medical transport, another 35 to 45 minutes is spent entering patient data.

“There are times when we come back (from a medical transport) and we’re unable to re-enter (the report) because we’ve got another call (to handle),” Beach said. “Now, we’re backed up and we don’t have time for our collateral duties, the oddball stuff that we do – that most fire departments don’t do – because we’re smaller.”

That “oddball stuff” includes cleaning the station, maintaining and enhancing the grounds and performing minor vehicle maintenance, he explained.

Between this and the time spent at the hospital, the fire department estimated using the Toughbook computers could save its personnel approximately 64 minutes per call.

In addition to being a time-saver, making the switch from hand-written paper reports to typed electronic reports can result in “better” medical care for patients, the application stated. “Legible documents lead to fewer medical errors or misunderstandings.”

This was the Addison department’s second grant this year. The first one was for $60,667 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It was earmarked for two new 12-lead electrocardiogram monitor/defibrillator units.