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Emergency Response: Why Mission-Critical Mobility is more than Putting a Device on Four Wheels

Given that quick response time is the nature of the emergency services business, I have often been taken aback when I learn that many first responders aren’t equipped with quick response technologies as far as business processes/data workflows go. Sure, paperwork has long sufficed as the primary incident documentation method, but wouldn’t it make more sense that personnel have the tools to finish a job as quickly as one started? The last thing any critical care patient needs is for an ambulance to respond to their call within a couple minutes and effectively rush them to a hospital only to be inundated with paperwork or incompatible data sharing platforms that slow their access to care at the receiving hospital. That contradicts the mission of emergency services organizations.

Although getting personnel into that vehicle and to the scene or placing a critical patient onto that gurney and into the vehicle within a matter of minutes are the most important tasks in emergency services, making those things happen effectively is about more than just adding four wheels to the operation. The same idea applies to the implementation of mission-critical mobile tasks. Simply getting a device into a vehicle or in the hands of first responders as quickly as possible – basically giving it four wheels – doesn’t make it a truly mobile solution capable of completing a task successfully. That just means it’s portable. It takes much more to turn an emergency vehicle into a fully operational mobile office qualified to deliver improved ePCR care; automate inventory management and incident reporting; streamline HIPPA-certified data collection processes; transition patient records to longer-term care facilities; or even conduct video conferencing from the field for remote team support of incident assessment and decision-making. 

True Mobility for Emergency Response

In other words, mobility and portability are not synonymous. In fact, confusing the two can hinder fire and EMS response capabilities.

When you only have seconds to react to a call and make life-changing decisions, you don’t have the luxury of that minute needed to disconnect and reconnect all the wires often associated with the “portable” laptop or toughbook platforms mounted in emergency vehicles today. And those consumer-grade devices that many are considering more mobile, and therefore feasible, for quick response capabilities are just that: made for consumers. They’re not meant to withstand a lot of bumps and bruises, and they can’t guarantee immediate, reliable connectivity. When a consumer’s call doesn’t go through right away, they can try again without consequence. If a first responder can’t connect with dispatch or a receiving hospital, then a life literally could be lost. 

First responders need to be worried about patient care – not device care. They need rugged, purpose-built tech tools in their arsenal that work wherever those four wheels take them, in and out of the vehicle. Fire and EMS departments, who are obviously in the business of mobility, need to make investments that align with the very unique reach, speed, compatibility and reliability requirements of that work environment. It’s imperative that the mobile technologies put into service can extend critical workflows to each and every call, regardless of distance or density, without compromising quality of care or response times. Take the time now to thoroughly assess your mobility situation so that your first responders don’t have to make impossible decisions in the field using only the technology they do – or don’t – have access to could mean a matter of life-or-death.