2008 Industry Pace Setter

By  William Atkinson — November 06, 2008

Submit Your Entry For The 2009 Mobilizer Awards here.

Software designed for handheld devices is enabling San Diego EMS responders to quickly and accurately collect emergency patient information in the field and share it with other caregivers.

Using a software program called TapChart, the information is collected electronically on handheld Palm smartphones and PDAs. While the program has been in use on various devices for the past nine years, a recent upgrade to Palm 700 and Palm 755p handhelds has added to its functionality.

The application has been so successful that the organization is now partnering with software vendor ImageTrend to market it to other first responders. The software developer is also rewriting the program for the Windows Mobile 6.1 operating system.

TapChart was developed in-house by San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Captain/Paramedic Greg George and a team of evangelists in his department.

"We began using it on monochrome Palm devices," says John Pringle, Electronic Firefighter/Paramedic Documentation Coordinator for the San Diego Medical Services Enterprise (SDMSE) of the San Diego Fire Rescue Department.

It is called TapChart because it involves tapping the stylus on the device to create a patient's medical chart.

Via a simple, direct interface, emergency responders record patient history and information on site in real time. The program prompts them to ask detailed follow-up questions that might otherwise be overlooked. A built-in database of medications can be referenced at the scene.

Previously, firefighter paramedics would document the patient assessment, vital signs, and treatments on paper and hand this to an arriving ambulance crew. Now, each responder in the sequence of care transfers the patient record via secure infrared beam to the next responding party's PDA. For example, information is passed from the fire department's first responder to the transporting ambulance and on to staff at the hospital emergency room.

"It was easy to misplace or fail to complete the old paper forms, so it was difficult to reconcile," Pringle says. "We ended up missing an average of seven patient records a day. Now, we can immediately reconcile every patient transport."

More than 70,000 patient encounter records are created each year, which used to generate some 350,000 pages of paper-based forms. Bills for service that previously went uncollected are now providing additional revenue.

According to Teri Crutchfield, director of finance for SDMSE, TapChart also shortens the days to bill by an average of three days, often allowing billing to occur within 24 hours.

The City of San Diego has gained 16,500 hours of paramedic ambulance availability that were previously lost to time-consuming paper-based reporting. All of those patient reports used to be retrieved by a rounds driver, burning fuel in the process.

These benefits equate an average of $2.5 million a year windfall increase in revenue, which means the agency hasn't had to raise its fees to the community that it serves. The large bank of patient information amassed via the TapChart system can be statistically analyzed to identify trends, enabling improvements to protocols that are saving thousands of lives.

>Honorable Mention: Eclipse Aviation
Pilots soar with wireless flight bag

The Eclipse 500 is a very light jet manufactured by Eclipse Aviation. The Eclipse 500's flight deck, branded as Avio NG, is designed to reduce pilot workload and improve safety.

Eclipse wanted to extend the benefits of that flight deck with an electronic flight bag, dubbed the Avio NG Flight Bag (AFB).

The AFB enables pilots to quickly access critical information during flights, as well as properly plan flight operations. It has to house nearly 15,000 digital documents, replacing 80-pound suitcases of paper documentation.

Small, durable computers were needed to complete the package. The Fujitsu LifeBook P1600 Series convertible notebook fit the bill. The 2.2 pound notebook has six hours of battery life and integrated WLAN and Bluetooth.

After landing, pilots can use it to review and submit flight plans from any location, as well as check weather and send email. Pilots can be ready to fly in 20 minutes, a process that otherwise takes upwards of two hours.

The LifeBook's convertible form factor allows pilots to use a touchscreen or traditional keyboard.

The AFB was rolled out to enthusiastic response in December 2006. Says Matt Brown, Director of Product Marketing for Eclipse, "Anytime you introduce new hardware, you expect some pushback. However, we haven't gotten any on this."

Non-recurring engineering (NRE) costs were incurred for the software development, and totaled about $1 million to date. These costs are being absorbed in the pricing model for the AFB. "We expect to achieve ROI by the end of 2008 or early 2009," says Brown.

>Honorable Mention: TrialStat
Clinical trials speed up with electronic data capture

TrialStat provides clinical data management on demand for biotech companies, pharmaceutical companies, and academic institutions.

Managing paper-based clinical trials is cumbersome and error-prone for customers. To aid in this process, TrialStat created the ClinicalAnalytics (CA) electronic data capture (EDC) solution to improve upon paper-based methods.

When first deployed, the mobile technology available couldn't deliver the full functionality intended. Users had to be connected to the Internet to enter and access data, says TrialStat CTO Peter O'Blenis.

However, researchers were often in locations that had no Internet connectivity.

The desired solution had to have a local database that would run on the devices and that the TrialStat team could encrypt and lock down. It also needed the capability to secure the data in transit.

Sybase's iAnywhere M-Business Anywhere platform enabled TrialStat to deliver the EDC feature, says O'Blenis. It allows mobile users to work on Pocket PCs and Palm OS devices.

ClinicalAnalytics (CA) 4.0 allows researchers to:

  • Configure and deploy studies quickly using browser-based wizards, without the assistance of programmers;

  • Improve the quality and accuracy of the data collected;

  • Easily make mid-study changes to protocols, forms, sites, and investigators;

  • Easily access data throughout the course of their studies.

Overall ClinicalAnalytics reduces the time required to deploy studies, cuts data capture costs by as much as 60%, eliminates need for custom programming, eliminates instances of missing data, and improves data accuracy via form-based validation.

See who won in the other categories:






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