Top 5 Things to Know When Implementing New Technology in Your EMS System

MedStar Personnel Share Perspectives from the Communications Center to the Field

Gil Glass

Chief Executive Officer, US
Inspired by a product that makes a difference and motivated by a talented staff, Gil has a passion for using technology to help communities.

Logis recently had the opportunity to sponsor webinars for the American Ambulance Association and for Fitch & Associates, which produces the Pinnacle EMS Leadership Forum. We worked with MedStar, a high-performing EMS system in Texas and Logis user, to share their first-hand perspective of implementing new technology. Matt Zavadsky, immediate past president of NAEMT and MedStar’s chief strategic integration officer, led a panel discussion with his team members, including:

  • Ken Simpson, MedStar COO
  • Raylon Bryant, dispatch supervisor
  • Elizabeth Roden, field provider

They discussed how technological innovations affect daily work in each of their roles—from dispatching calls in the communications center to treating patients in the field—and how they overcome challenges along the way. Below are five key takeaways from the conversation to help you implement new technology in your system.

1. Decisions Can’t Be Made Alone

Matt Zavadsky recommended, “involve the end user because they’re going to tell you things that you wouldn’t even recognize since they’ll be the ones using the technology 10, 20, 30 times a day.” If you’re thinking of making the move to a new CAD platform or communication tool, it’s important to talk to the people who will use it on a daily basis. They can tell you the specific needs they have in their role and how technology solutions that will best fulfill those needs.

Personnel will also appreciate having ample notice of any process changes and the introduction of new platforms. Once the right technology is collectively decided upon, it will be beneficial to introduce it slowly and explain how it will impact operations on a short and long-term basis. Walking through the goals of implementing the technology will allow staff to understand that the intention is to help them provide emergency care more effectively and safely.

2. There’s No Such Thing as Too Much Communication

Communication is a two-way street when bringing in new technology to your agency. MedStar’s team mentioned using a variety of tools to keep it open and flowing. “We use communication channels such as Facebook Live and Zoom calls to learn what’s working and what’s not,” said Ken Simpson. These are great platforms to provide a real-time, open forum for personnel to engage in.

You should solicit feedback from personnel often and provide timely responses. This can be done through periodic surveys to check in with your team or emails asking for their input. All of these communication avenues will provide leadership with more visibility into how the technology is being received and implemented amongst personnel of all levels. This will also ensure any bumps in the road are identified early and smoothed over as quickly as possible.

3. Training, Training and More Training

It’s important not to become complacent with the efficiency technology provides and lose the human element. Simpson advised, “it’s good to ensure that part of your message is the fact that you’re not trying to replace the people.” This will help ease potential nerves they may have and fosters trust building between your team and leadership.

Train your staff on how to use the technology effectively and confidently by offering multiple hands-on training opportunities led by experienced professionals. Have someone come in who has actually used the technology and describe first-hand to your staff how it will change things. Don’t forget to cover examples of how the technology can introduce potential hurdles so that personnel are prepared to handle them.

4. Over Prepare

Technology isn’t invincible and outages can happen. Dispatch supervisor Raylon Bryan suggested, “technology can do a lot for you, but you need the redundancies in place and to frequently test them because you can’t control everything.” It’s critical to routinely test failure plans, double check that they’re in working order, and that they are memorialized with personnel who need to follow them.

Also, make sure personnel are knowledgeable of manual processes, he added, in case they need to revert back to them—such as using a grid system when dispatching to addresses or knowing how to manually intubate a patient. Old-fashioned ways of doing things can come in handy the day that a technology hiccup occurs, or a connectivity problem happens when you least expect it—especially during time-sensitive patient emergencies.

5. Become More Patient Centered

Technology can help streamline care processes, providing more time for personnel to focus on the patient. Field provider Elizabeth Roden emphasized the benefits of telemedicine in helping patients virtually receive care. “This allows us to cater to patients in different ways, especially during the pandemic,” she said. Roden also shared how telemedicine can aid in resource management by providing virtual care for nonemergent cases.

Data can also help enhance patient care, such as the ability to timestamp from the second a 911 call is placed to the moment when EMS reaches the patient. Simpson noted that this capability tells a lot about the patient experience and how it can be improved upon. The quality of patient care can be enhanced by looking back at a case and tracking how a response was executed and the outcome that resulted.

Whether you’re a dispatch supervisor, a field provider or an EMS agency leader, it’s beneficial to keep these learnings in mind as your EMS system brings on new technology solutions. Considering the experience of all personnel during that transition will help make the process as seamless as possible and, in turn, keep the quality of patient care a top priority.

If you didn’t get a chance to tune into the discussions, you can review the live webinar recordings here:

Pinnacle Webinar Series: Why Any Organization, Private or Public, Needs to Harness the Latest Technology to Improve

AAA Webinar: Using CAD Data, Artificial Intelligence and Technology to Deliver High Performance, High Value EMS

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