Articles

Boynton Beach, Fla., First Responders Go Digital

The city could be among the first in Palm Beach County to have their fire crews throw out paper and use a digital program to store and transfer patient information.

by Alexandra Seltzer, The Palm Beach Post / April 30, 2015
(TNS) -- Boynton Beach, Fla., welcome to the digital age.

The city is entering a new phase that involves both the police and fire-rescue departments. They're changing the way they pay the county clerk for court filing fees, and how the fire department's EMS crews file patient information from the field.

As far as paying the court, Boynton is the last Palm Beach County municipality, according to city documents, to set up an account so employees no longer have to bring cash.

They might be the last to jump ship on that, but, the city could be the first, or among the first, according to Boynton Beach Fire Chief Ray Carter, to have their fire crews throw out the paper, and use a digital program to store and transfer patient information.

"The technology is certainly there," Carter told The Palm Beach Post on Wednesday. "And it's something that we've got to take advantage of. That's for sure."

Boynton's police department has to pay filing fees for certain things, including city ordinance violations, animal control citations and administrative liens on parking violations. To pay these fees, a city employee will bring cash to the courthouse.

Now, the city plans to set up an account with the clerk that will have $1,500 in it. When it gets down to $500, it will be replenished, according to documents.

"We are currently the only agency in Palm Beach County that actually hand delivers cash to the courthouse," documents say.

The fire-rescue change comes with the help of a $33,800 grant from the Bureau of Medical Oversight and the Florida Department of Transportation. With that money, the fire rescue department will start using an electronic patient care reporting system. It's expected to start about August or September, Chief Ray Carter said.

Right now, when a medic is with a patient, he or she writes everything on paper. The medic keeps the original form and the facility where the patient is taken gets a copy. At the end of 24-hour shifts, the reports are reviewed and important statistics are entered by hand into a spreadsheet.

With the new program, crews would use a electronic tablet. Information could be downloaded at the hospital and then downloaded back at the fire rescue department for analysis, records and billing.

"It saves a ton of manual work in order to do this," Carter said.

Carter said other fire-rescue agencies will start to change their systems, too. Especially because it will help agencies meet certain federal and state requirements.

"Industry-wide, it's going to happen fairly quickly," he said.

But for Boynton, it's been a long time coming —about five years long, he said.

"It's something that we've been striving to get to for a while now and finally we're there."

©2015 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.