The Importance Of Real-Time Communication Technology In The Event Of A Disaster

Healthcare facilities are complex ecosystems with hundreds of clinical and administrative processes. Hospitals also play a central role in disaster response, and technology revolutionizes how first responders organize, automate and streamline the workflow. Natural and manmade disasters of the past have taught us the reliable, durable and resilient means of communication are vital to the disaster response.

The crucial purpose of mobile technology in disaster response is data access and communication in two aspects. The first is the emergency response when a disaster affects the hospital premises and the facility has to keep functioning. The staff and patient coordination becomes vital in mitigating the damage and protecting lives. The second is the emergency response on the site of a natural or manmade disaster.

On-Site Disaster

Hospitals need to be prepared for on-site emergencies, and an increasing number of facilities are adopting mobile technology for uses beyond patient records and clinic research. Hospitals are using real-time communication tech to protect their staff, patients, and visitors before and during emergencies. Natural disasters and active shooter attacks aside, medical buildings can be hazardous due to the large quantities of biohazard and chemical substances they store. Hospitals adopt digital emergency response plans in sync with local firefighters and police. The healthcare facilities can make live updates on the property and population so that first responders have the floor plans, a list of hazardous substances, campus maps, the location of fire hydrants, etc. This information at the fingertips of medical staff, patients, and first responders results in a smarter, more effective emergency response.

Natural and Manmade Disasters Alerts

Mobile technology has become an indispensable tool of disaster alerts. With a dozen of apps from FEMA and Red Cross, to name a few, mobile devices get real-time alerts on the upcoming natural disasters and keep the first responders up-to-date with how the disaster evolves. This effectively rules out such situations when a natural disaster takes place and local hospitals remain unaware until the flow of patients floods their premises. Disaster alert systems keep the first responders in sync with the upcoming and evolving disasters, which allows for timely preparation. The medics know where the most affected regions are, and the possible type of casualties.

Telemedicine

During a disaster, effective communication is often the difference between life and death. Rugged tablets with increasingly sophisticated wireless connectivity and backup batteries, high-definition video and audio technology are revolutionizing emergency services.

Telepresence has become a reality, where a slew of mobile applications collectively known as telemedicine is dramatically transforming disaster response. TACTEL, the Tactical Telemedicine initiative, for example, has been designed for the first responders that support law enforcement during active shooter incidents with multiple casualties. Allowing the on-site EMTs and paramedics to connect directly to local and regional trauma centers, apps such as TACTEL provide live triage support and medical cooperation in a variety of scenarios. The program was tested in trauma surgeon/medic interaction for victims with head injury, extreme bleeding, and gunshot wounds. Real-time interaction between trauma surgeons and SWAT medics facilitates a streamlined patient stabilization.

Live Data Sync

Real-time data entry on-scene provides an unprecedented value to trauma centers. Surgeons acquire facts and details of casualties in real time, which facilitates preparations for patient arrival.

On-site data acquisition also streamlines patient identification, which provides relevant data about patient allergies and health conditions. Fast data access also helps bill the insurance providers and prevent legal incidents.

TCO, Integration Into The Existing Ecosystem

Healthcare facilities often face budget limitations when introducing new equipment, and TCO is one of the top concerns. Decision-makers should know the consumer tablets show drastic failure rates when used in healthcare. Popular non-rugged consumer devices (when used in healthcare or business) have a failure rate of 15.2%, and up to 40%. On the other hand, rugged medical tablets by Cybernet have an Overall Failure Rate of less than 2%.

How the new mobile tech gets integrated into the existing ecosystem of a facility is one of the constituents of the Total Cost of Ownership since it encompasses deployment, maintenance and compatibility with the slew of existing apps and equipment. Windows- or Linux-based tablets are perfect to incorporate into the complex medical ecosystem, where EMR software such as EPIC and other back-end applications (databases, image, and video viewing) require powerful hardware.

Disaster responders need mobile devices that adhere to the following requirements:

  • Ruggedness to withstand harsh environments common in disaster response situations. They can withstand drops, are dust and waterproof.
  • Uptime Reliability to ensure minimum downtime. Ideally, such medical tablets should come with hot-swappable batteries that allow for battery swap without powering down the device.
  • Reliable wired and wireless connectivity, which is critical in disaster response, with 3G and 4G LTE support,  GPS navigation, and Bluetooth and IP connectivity to support peripherals, including legacy.
  • Safe for near-patient use and in compliance with industry safety standards against electrocution, and radiation.
  • Antimicrobial, easy to disinfect to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Capacitive touchscreen to recognize input from a gloved finger or a stylus.
  • Integrated peripherals such as barcode scanner, smart card or IRS scanners.
  • Secure to protect confidential medical data.
  • Flexible mounting and docking options.
  • Long-term software compatibility to support contextual apps used for EMR, reporting, insurance lookups, etc.
  • Easy to carry, with a handle and straps – first responders should not worry about their devices, but focus on their patients.

Summary

It takes a medical-grade rugged device to transform an emergency vehicle into an operational mobile office capable of harnessing all the benefits of mobile technology, such as:

  • Improved electronic Patient Care Reporting
  • Automatic inventory management
  • Timely alert on patient allergies and existing health conditions
  • HIPAA-compliant data collection
  • Sync of patient injuries and stabilization procedures with trauma centers
  • Video conferencing with a remote team support for incident assessment, decision-making
  • Elimination of paperwork, delays in data entry, and the need for duplicate data entry

The use of real-time, mobile communication technologies can create a powerful platform that captures data from tablets, EHRs, clinical information systems on the go, and syncs it across disparate locations. That big data gives the healthcare worker a holistic, real-time view of the disaster situation, patients triage, identification, health records and insurance information on any device in the system. Such smart ecosystem provides more efficient care, saves more lives, and makes the work of emergency responders safer. Finally, with rugged tablets built from the ground up for medical use, a hospital’s digital workflow meets critical security regulations.

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