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Boston MedFlight uses TomTom to cut total trip time by 30% or more

Author: Michael Geffroy

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2012-03-12
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Boston MedFlight recently added navigation systems from TomTom Business Solutions to its fleet of ground critical care vehicles, reducing trip time by an average of 30 percent.  TomTom’s fleet management and navigation systems are fully integrated into Boston MedFlight’s dispatch system, allowing drivers to simply accept the job and get turn-by-turn directions.  And, with TomTom’s live traffic updates, the system automatically adjusts to avoid delays.


Emergency transport for Boston hospitals

Boston MedFlight is a non-profit organization that transports emergency patients regardless of their ability to pay and is financially supported by a consortium of six Boston hospitals, including: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Medical Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Children's Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital and Tufts Medical Center.  The company has played an integral role in the emergency medical system serving the hospitals of New England for more than 25 years.

Boston MedFlight operates three ground critical care vehicles, three helicopters and one fixed- wing jet aircraft, which are strategically positioned throughout Massachusetts to transport patients to specialized care centers.  All vehicles are equipped with the same sophisticated medical equipment used in a hospital intensive care unit.

“Boston MedFlight transported 3,000 patients last year, the majority by helicopter, but the number of patients being transported by ground vehicle is increasing,” says Bill Cyr, operations supervisor and critical care transport nurse at Boston MedFlight.  “All providers are looking for ways to reduce costs without affecting quality of care.  So if it is not time-sensitive, if weather conditions prevent travel by helicopter or if a patient simply needs to be transferred from one intensive care unit to another, they go by our ground critical care vehicle.”


Book of maps misses mark

When Boston MedFlight recently replaced its ambulance fleet, the company also decided to upgrade its navigation capabilities.  Until that time, Boston MedFlight EMTs used a printed “map book” to find directions to local hospitals. 

“Driving for Boston MedFlight presents a unique navigation challenge for our EMTs,” says Cyr.  “Most of our EMTs have worked previously for local ambulance companies, which serve a limited number of hospitals in the surrounding communities, so the EMTs get to know their routes very well.  They develop a certain ‘comfort zone.’  But Boston MedFlight covers a much larger area, so sooner or later our EMTs end up outside that comfort zone.  It’s one thing to be driving with your spouse and not know exactly where you’re going, but it’s quite another to be responsible for delivering a sick patient and medical personnel.  That’s a lot of pressure.”

This manual system also presented a problem if an ambulance had to stop at a hospital not included in the book or if changing conditions on the ground, such as traffic or weather, required an alternate route.


Peace of mind for EMTs

Boston MedFlight integrated its TomTom fleet management system with its Fleet Eyes dispatch software, which is also linked to the applications that track the company’s helicopters and jet – providing a consolidated view of all MedFlight vehicles on a single digital map.

“The easy and accurate directions provided by our TomTom system has resulted in significant time savings for our ground transportation,” says Cyr.  “Previously, our drivers had to either print directions online or look up the route in the map book.  Now they just plug the destination into the TomTom navigation device, or simply accept the job sent to the device by our Fleet Eyes software.  We’re now saving 5-10 minutes at the start of every trip, which can be critical.”  With an average trip time of approximately 30 minutes, this represents a savings of up to 30 percent or more.

Boston MedFlight also relies on TomTom’s live traffic updates to avoid delays and plot the quickest route possible.  “This is a big benefit because we don’t usually use lights and siren to ‘part the sea’ of traffic ahead of us,” says Cyr.  Studies have shown that the use of lights and sirens typically results in time savings of less than a minute but it also increases the chances an ambulance could be involved in a crash.  “To improve the safety for our crews, our patients and other cars on the road with us, we only use red light and sirens if the patient has a time-sensitive need.  TomTom helps makes sure we’re safe and quick.”

With TomTom, Boston MedFlight’s EMTs can more easily change plans en route.  If a patient’s condition worsens, for example, they can quickly find the nearest hospital at any point along the original route and change destinations.

The company is also using TomTom as part of its performance improvement process and to improve its billing accuracy.  “We are now required to document  the exact number of miles travelled,” says Cyr, “versus an estimate based on mileage suggested by the online directions compiled in our map book.” 

But Cyr says one of the biggest benefits Boston MedFlight has received from its TomTom fleet management system is the peace of mind it provides for the EMTs driving the ambulances:  “TomTom allows our EMTs to focus on their primary responsibility, which is getting the patient from point a to point b as quickly and safely as possible.”

Michael Geffroy is vice president of TomTom Business Solutions. For more information, see


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