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New App Provides Patient Data to Hospital Before EMS Arrives

Hartford HealthCare and its networks have begun using an EMS communication software called Twiage, with an initial rollout at St. Vincent's Medical Center and the remainder of Hartford HealthCare's locations soon.

Ambulance_Swabb
Shutterstock/Chris D swabb
(TNS) — When emergency medical workers are inbound to a hospital with a patient, seconds count. Any delay in communication, such as an EMS crew being too far from a radio tower, can result in a slower response as the hospital has to wait for vital information to prepare.

Now, as the old catchphrase says, there's an app for that.

Hartford HealthCare and its networks have begun using an EMS communication software called Twiage this week, with an initial roll-out at St. Vincent's Medical Center on Monday and the remainder of Hartford HealthCare's locations on Wednesday. The app allows EMS providers to quickly upload patient information, symptoms, vital readings and severity of ailment and transmit it to the emergency room.

It also has picture sharing, text and video chat features so the paramedics can communicate more effectively with the hospital before they arrive.

"It shaved a whole bunch of time off, which in turn gives me the ability to focus more on my patient which helps with safety, which helps with care," Stratford EMS Chief Mike Loiz said about his time beta testing the system for the department. "It basically enhanced everything for me."

Stratford EMS is one of the departments using Twiage to communicate with Hartford HealthCare's network. Loiz said the town's service had recently outfitted its trucks with iPads and increased WiFi capability for other purposes, but can now also support this technology.

Loiz called the technology "the future of EMS."

"We can stay stagnant where we are or we can start breaking into some of the future technologies that are going to get us to a much, much more significant place with patient care," he said. "This system does that. The system basically brings the doctor virtually right into the back of my ambulance."

He said there is going to be a learning curve, like with any introduction of a new system, but the department has done a "whole bunch of training."

Stratford EMS will still have the radios to use as a fail-safe and to work with other medical facilities that are not using this technology, Loiz said.

From the hospital's prospective, this technology can help reduce the time taken to set up patient information and determine what they need in terms of care, according to James Powell, EMS network development manager at St. Vincent's.

"It just saves so much time and makes the process a lot simpler, so this really is going to make a huge difference," Powell said.

Steven Valassis, chair of emergency medicine at St. Vincent's, said that two-way communication — being able to get information from EMS while also being able to ask questions at the same time, was vital.

"It's going to be the next step in the way that we take care of patients and start taking care of them even before they get into our doors," he said.

In the case of a stroke, for example, the app will allow the hospital to do live video consults with a neurologist to determine what medication a patient may need, St. Vincent's EMS Coordinator Terence Sheehan said. The app's picture-sharing feature allows paramedics to share electrocardiograms (EKGs) with the hospital, giving the hospital more time to call in a cardiac specialist if needed, Powell added.

Twiage's website says it can cut down EMS wait times by 65 percent, cut the time from emergency room entry to designated room by 60 percent and reduce the notification time between EMS and hospitals by an average of 90 seconds.

"With certain things, even shaving minutes off is a big deal," Valassis said.

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