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3 Steps to Implement Your EMS Agency’s New ePCR

ESO Staff

In 1966, a famous whitepaper was published and made its way all the way to the desk of the President of the United States, offering research that proved that, at the time, a person had a better chance surviving a serious injury in a combat setting than on the streets of the U.S.  In fact, the paper identified accidental injuries as the “leading cause of death in the first half of life’s span,” and reported that in 1965 alone, more American lives were lost in vehicle accidents than in the whole Korean War. 

This whitepaper – and the subsequent chain of events that lead to the first nationally recognized curriculum for EMS in 1969 – is often considered the birth of modern EMS services. In the most current extensive survey of nationwide U.S. EMS agencies, NASEMO reported that today’s EMTs responded to more than 36 million calls in 2010 alone. It’s safe to say that today’s EMS industry is massive and hugely valuable to the health of our society and, like other major corporations, must evolve with the times to remain optimized and modern. 

Today’s society is overflowing with data, much of which has the potential to help EMTs and health providers create better outcomes for their patients. Information is constantly streaming from “smart” devices, from personal watches and fitness monitors, to smart equipment that can read and assess the surrounding environment, to easily accessible databases of information stored on the cloud.  

One of the most beneficial emerging technologies is the electronic patient care record (ePCR), a tool gaining popularity in EMS agencies and hospitals thanks to it substantial time-saving capabilities along the patient care spectrum, from first impression to hospital discharge. Each patient has a digital record that follows him or her throughout treatment, handed off from EMS to hospital, easily reviewed and updated, and later referenced and augmented for large-scale reviews of care performance and organization statistics. Today’s top ePCRs allow for easy bidirectional information sharing between hospitals and EMS agencies, providing a long list of benefits including easier audits, improved outcomes and patient care, and better insights into areas for improvement. 

That said, like any large organization, the move to ePCRs can pose some challenges to EMS agencies. The benefits and value of the change is undeniable; but how can you make the transition as painless as possible for your officers and your team members, and your organization as a whole?  

Many large companies in the civilian world have had to learn to be more responsive to the ever-evolving, global setting in which communications and business take place today. In fact, extensive studies and articles outline best practices for large-scale “change management,” in which leaders of a company identify and conduct specific steps to ensure successful transition to a new SOP or operating systems. Many of these principles can actually be utilized in getting your EMS agency up to speed on a new ePCR system, helping ease the move and get your team up-to-speed with the new tools as quickly as possible. For example: 

Step 1: Communicate with your team and ensure buy-in. One of the top change management recommendations for businesses is to spend plenty of time and attention with your “troops on the ground,” ensuring that everyone is prepared for upcoming changes, has plenty of time to ask questions, and receives proper training. It’s important to remember that not everyone sees situations in the same way, and something that is obvious to an officer looking at performance statistics or audits may not be apparent during day-to-day operations of a team member. Utilize your ePCR provider to create a list or immediate benefits that will help your team, and ensure that you share this regularly in your communications on upcoming changes. Start the communication process well in advance of changes, and take time to establish a timeline that can be shared with team members. 

 Step 2: Set-aside Time for Training. In the rush of a busy firehouse, it can be challenging to find time for training on a new computer system. But, just like ongoing training exercises in other equipment is imperative, taking time to ensure your team members are experts on your new system will save you hours and hours of pain – or even help you avoid deadly mistakes – in the future. If possible, you should involve leaders within your station to help you create your training program, and identify some as local experts. Try to incorporate some creativity in your training, just like you do for other exercises, creating scenarios and possible situations where the tools must be used in different ways. Ideally, your new ePCR should be straightforward and easy to use, but don’t underestimate the value of giving all team members plenty of time to become comfortable with the new interface. 

Step 3: Leverage free resources and community support. As NEMSIS 3 is taken up by more and more agencies for required compliance, the need for a digital, easily processed system is becoming a necessity. EMTs are increasingly seeing the value of a top-quality ePCR tool that saves time “from bedside to billing.” So you can be sure that the community of users is steadily growing, and the network of other EMTs using ePCR can be an invaluable resource as you are getting your system up and running. Events like regional user groups offered by some providers allow EMTs to get together and discuss best practices, challenges and successes, areas for improvement, and collaborative ideas on how to get even more out of their digital tools. Turning to your peers for support and ideas can make your new tools even more beneficial for your team and your community. 

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