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Speeding Patient Care - Case Study: The Connected Ambulance

Author: Sterling Pratz, Autonet Mobile

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2012-02-16
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Southside Fire Uses Autonet Mobile to Send Crucial Patient Information to the Hospital Before Arrival

Southside Fire/EMS/Security is a community-based, non-profit Fire, EMS, and Security department which has been serving Chatham County, Georgia since 1961. At that time, the southern half of Chatham County had no fire protection. With a piece of land, one fire engine, and a budget of $10,000, residents of southern Chatham County joined together to form Southside Fire Department. This model exemplified protection “for the community, by the community.”

Today, Southside Fire’s EMS services is the sole provider of ambulance services in Chatham County, covering a population of more than 300,000 and making more than 50,000 calls per year.


The Challenge

With 35 ambulances making 150-200 calls a day, EMS staff were looking for a better way to file the state-mandated trip reports every day.  With so much time actually spent with patients, there was not a lot of time for heading back to the office to file reports through the State’s web portal.  Some EMS responders were using mobile devices tethered to a laptop in the vehicle, but the connection was slow and often unreliable. 

A reliable high-speed internet connection in the ambulance would also allow EMTs to quickly share patient information with hospitals securely while en route.  This would enable hospital staff to prepare for the patient’s arrival, and shorten “door to drug” time, or the amount of time between arrival and treatment.

In 2010, the State of Georgia received a grant to bring mobile connectivity to approximately 100 EMS agencies statewide.  For Southside Fire and other EMS services, a mobile broadband solution would allow teams in the field to not only file their reports with the state portal from the ambulance, but also transmit patient information to hospitals while en route.  The solution had to be flexible enough to allow future applications – such as GPS tracking of the vehicles and route planning – and also easy enough for staff to begin using immediately with little training.


The Solution

The State of Georgia chose the first wireless Internet service specifically designed for the car – Autonet Mobile, and in 2011, Southside Fire began using the company’s in-vehicle WiFi to equip ambulances with a secure and reliable Internet connection. 

Autonet Mobile’s proprietary and patented TRU Technology manages data to provide a seamless connection no matter how fast the vehicle travels between cell towers and offers high levels of security to protect sensitive data, such as medical information.

Southside Fire originally received nine routers through the State grant, and quickly decided to purchase an additional 26 routers to equip each ambulance in its 35-vehicle fleet with an Autonet Mobile device.  In addition to allowing EMS responders to file trip reports from the vehicle in real-time, they are also using the secure Internet connection provided by Autonet Mobile to transmit patient EKG information to hospitals while en route with the patient.  According to Southside Fire EMS Chief Tim Genest, the ability to share that information ahead of time, “really speeds patient care along.  Things are already in motion when the patient arrives at the hospital.” 


Enhancing Patient Care

In recent years, hospitals have had to adhere to strict patient care guidelines, which tie reimbursements to how quickly they treat patients.  Southside Fire’s ability to transmit EKG and other patient record information to the hospital before arrival has significantly improved the speed of patient care at the three hospitals they serve.  In fact, with Autonet Mobile in the vehicle, teams are able to transmit an EKG ahead to the hospital in 12 seconds.  This allows hospital staff to begin preparing a course of treatment in advance of the patient’s arrival and saves an enormous amount of time.

Leveraging Autonet Mobile’s range – the unit delivers a strong and reliable Wi-Fi signal within 100 feet of the ambulance – EMS teams have also been able to begin assessing patients’ conditions and transmitting that information to the hospital even before leaving the scene.  In many cases, the teams have been able to send accident victims’ EKG information even before the patient has been freed from the vehicle.


Future Plans

According to Chief Genest, Autonet Mobile has also significantly improved the reporting experience for EMS staff.  “We used to use a tethered mobile device to access the Web portal and file reports, but the connection was very slow and often dropped if the ambulance was in motion.  Autonet Mobile has really speeded things up.”

Southside Fire plans to expand use of the Autonet Mobile device to include more fleet management capabilities such as GPS tracking of ambulances and allowing dispatchers to better monitor their locations and route them effectively.  And according to Chief Genest, teams will be able to transmit even more information ahead to hospitals in the future.  “The sky’s really the limit now.  Autonet Mobile is the key for us.  Now we’re able to transmit any information we can imagine.”

“Our workforce is very intuitive when it comes to technology,” said Chief Genest.  “And Autonet Mobile is very easy to use.  We have gotten everything we needed from the devices at a very reasonable cost and will continue to expand our use of the product.”


Sterling Pratz is founder and CEO at Autonet Mobile, where he has combined two of his passions: cars and technology. As a former professional race car driver, he is intimately familiar with the vechicle market and what it takes to perform at the highest levels.



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