North Shore-LIJ Launches Wireless Tracking Tool at LIJ to Coordinate Ambulances and Triage Patients Before They Arrive at ER

New wireless tracking tool at LIJ's ED better coordinates incoming ambulances and triages patients.

NEW HYDE PARK, NY –  North Shore-LIJ’s Center for Emergency Medical Services (CEMS) has installed a new wireless tracking system to better predict ambulance arrivals and collect critical health data in real-time before patients arrive at the Emergency Department (ED).  The new technology was recently rolled out at LIJ Medical Center, the first hospital on Long Island and Queens to use the software.

Responding to 911 calls, paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMT) begin their assessment and gather critical patient information.  Using a laptop computer, emergency medical workers transmit patients’ age, gender, vital signs and brief comments about their condition -- for example, “dizziness, seizure, fainting.”    Information is displayed on a 40-inch monitor on the wall facing the entrance of LIJ’s ambulance bay (names are not used to protect patient privacy).  Triage nurses or physicians can get a quick visual picture about the number of ambulances enroute to the hospital and the severity of  patients’ conditions, which allow staff to better prepare for patients and manage care. Physicians and nurses can also access patient information on computers in the ED.

“The Emergency Department is an unpredictable place,” said Salvatore Pardo, MD, associate chairman of emergency medicine at LIJ.  “The technology is a great tool because it gives the ED team information at a glance to better plan for incoming patients.”  From several yards away staff can see incoming cases blinking on the monitor, with trauma cases in black or cardiac arrests in orange, for example.  Previously, Dr. Pardo said the ED would get a phone call from emergency medical staff in the ambulance and it was nearly impossible to capture all details of a patient’s condition.  (EMTs will likely still call ahead to the ED to alert staff to heart attack or major trauma patients.)  “The tracking system eliminates paperwork and gets patients registered before they arrive, making treatment and the entire process more effective,” he added.

 The new tracking system, known as XChangER, was developed by the Duluth, MN-based company Sansio.  Currently, North Shore-LIJ EMS and the Fire Department of New York are using the system at LIJ.  North Shore-LIJ’s CEMS, the largest hospital-based ambulance service in the New York metropolitan area and one of the largest in the country, plans to introduce the technology at other health system hospitals in the coming months.

   “The tracking technology provides a continuum of care for patients, integrating information taken at the emergency site and in the ambulance prior to arrival at the hospital for treatment,” said Alan Schwalberg, vice president of the health system’s CEMS.  “Combining the technology of electronic medical records and this new tracking software, we are providing accurate, up-to-the minute health information about patients so ED staff can prepare and coordinate the best possible medical care.”

 In the past year, LIJ’s ED saw a 36 percent increase in patient visits, partially attributable to recent hospital closures in Queens, according to Patricia Farrell, RN, senior administrative director of patient care services at LIJ.  Each month, LIJ’s ED receives about 1,400 ambulances via 911 calls and provides approximately 80,000 patient visits annually.

“We know that seconds count in a 911 call for a medical emergency,” said Ms. Farrell. “The tracking system jump starts care and we are able to triage patients before they come through the door.”

Ms. Farrell explained that the pre-hospital electronic records technology also helps the ED staff to better manage incoming ambulance traffic. Through CEMS, they have the ability to divert an ambulance to a nearby hospital, if necessary, improving “hospital throughput.”

“If we see an increased volume of patients in the ED and we know their condition, we can notify the operating room or other hospital departments, such as a need for more beds,” she said. “This way, we have a game plan that not only enhances patient care and service, but makes the workflow more efficient.”

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