Spokane Fire moves to electronic patient records

Department generates more than 20,000 reports

Brian Schaeffer, Assistant Fire Chief, 509.625.7002

Monday, April 7, 2014 at 8:38 p.m.

In an effort that will make Spokane safer, the Spokane Fire Department switched this morning to a digital patient records system.

The Patient Care Reporting (ePCR) system allows for electronic collection of patient information as a replacement to the traditional paper report that has been the routine in the department since 1884. Monday's implementation is the culmination of a year-long project that allows the department's firefighters and paramedics to provide better medical care to citizens and visitors.

“This tool gives the City's Firefighters and Paramedics the ability to better care for citizens at a time when they are most needed,” said Spokane Mayor David Condon.

The Spokane Fire Department responded to more than 33,000 incidents in 2013. More than 86 percent of those had emergency medical services components. That translated into more than 20,000 patient care reports.

Digital patient records significantly improve emergency medical services by:

  • Equipping firefighters and paramedics with portable tablets to collect real-time patient and incident information
  • Ensuring compliance with all HIPAA and State of Washington regulations requirements of protecting the privacy of patient's medical records, which are maintained and stored in a secure database
  • Quickly and accurately generating a patient's report in a uniform and comprehensive manner, resulting better documentation of higher levels of services
  • Complying with Washington State and Center for Disease Control (CDC) repositories used for the collection and analysis of incident level patient care records used to positively impact future services by improving on the current practices provided by emergency care personnel

The ePCR implementation is one of many steps to develop a comprehensive approach to integrated medical care with the local hospital systems, public health organizations and the City's ambulance vendor. The department's EMS division worked through an exhaustive process to research, test and select an affordable, flexible ePCR platform.

The department is also leveraging the ePCR System's capability to provide detailed analysis of incidents, procedures, status of report preparation, monitoring and corrective action requirements as well as customizable reports to meet the public's need for information. The technology also allows real-time information to be sent to key personnel.

“The department will be able to provide rapid, appropriate and timely response based upon current conditions in the field,” said Brian Schaeffer, assistant fire chief.

The $30,000 purchase of the technology, training and infrastructure is funded by the City's EMS Levy. It has been completely integrated with existing systems including, Computer Aided Dispatch, Records Management System, LifePack Monitor/Defibrillators and the State of Washington Department of Licensing's bar codes on state identification and driver's licenses.