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State-of-the-art information system to aid EMS workers

By Ed Brock

New technology will soon be in the hands of Clayton County and Forest Park emergency medical personnel that will save lives and help them do a better job.

On Tuesday the Clayton County Commission approved the purchase of 30 Panasonic "Toughbook" laptop computers that will be loaded with "EMSoft" software for the cost of $145,941. The computers will be part of the Georgia Office of Emergency Medical Services' PCR2000 Data Collection System and the Georgia EMS Surveillance System (GEMSSS).

"They're going to be not only utilized for the hospital reports (that must be made on each patient) but the data is going to be scanned right to the state," said Amy Nix, instructor and spokeswoman for the Clayton County Fire Department.

The computers will track trends in patient care, the amount of medicine and equipment used and how much is kept on hand. In other words, "valuable information in identifying abnormal frequencies of any signs or symptoms of your EMS personnel's patient contacts," according to a letter to Clayton County Fire Chief Alex Cohilas from Ej Dailey, deputy director of the Office of EMS.

"It's some nice data, how are we doing, where do we need to improve," Nix said. "All that is done manually now. It just cuts out a lot of steps."

The Forest Park Fire Department has been using four of the laptops for almost two years now.

"The information I can get from these things is unreal," Forest Park fire Maj. Paul Beamon said. "In my opinion computerized reports are the way to go."

Except for working out a few bugs and getting the department's personnel trained on using the laptops, Beamon said they've been very helpful.

Beamon's department just recently received some very new equipment that will make the tricky procedure of tracheal intubation far easier. The department is the only one he knows of in the metro Atlanta area using one of the items, called a laryngeal mask airway, Beamon said.

Like the other device, called the ViewMax scope, the LMA is designed to make the difficult task of inserting an airtube into the trachea of a patient who isn't breathing much easier.

"This device is so easy I can teach you how to use it in about two minutes and you can get it right every time," Beamon said.

The ViewMax attaches to a laryngoscope to make it easier for an emergency medical technician to insert the tube through the vocal cords.

Acquiring equipment like the GEMSSS computers has been far easier since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that "kickstarted" program's like the Federal Emergency Management Administration's Firefighter Assistance Grant, Nix said.

"(Emergency management officials) saw the need for better data collection," Nix said. "We can't tell what we're doing for the community because we haven't been collecting the data."