Until recently, San Marcos, Calif., firefighter-paramedics were spending hours each day answering questions and filling in bubbles on medical, insurance and billing forms at the hospital.
If the paperwork couldn't be finished, it had to be completed back at the fire station, said San Marcos Fire Department Division Chief Chuck Morton. Firefighters on average respond to 13 medical calls per 24-hour shift, he said, and completing paperwork took 30 minutes to an hour for each patient. "We were looking for time management," Morton said.
After searching for solutions, the process was dumped at the end of June, Morton said.
The new method uses FieldSaver personal digital assistants, or PDAs, loaded with customized electronic menus that reduce the procedure to about 10 minutes, said firefighter and paramedic Jason Dobbins. Often, many questions can be answered before getting to the hospital, he said.
The one-time startup fee for the FieldSaver program is about $40,000, he said, and operating and maintenance fees are $6,000 a year. The charge is not based on the number of PDAsSan Marcos has 12but on the number of primary ambulances.
Instead of writing by hand, firefighters touch the tip of electronic pens to rectangular screens, answering questions on preloaded menus. The questions include where the patient was found, his/her symptoms and how they got the patients onto a gurney.
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