Tech revs up ambulance services
- By Brian Robinson
- Apr 01, 2002
More than 100 ambulance services in South Dakota — most of them volunteer
organizations — have been outfitted by the state with new computers and
software that government officials hope will significantly boost the services'
ability to react during major disasters and emergencies.
The new systems will bring all of the ambulance services on to the Internet,
many of them for the first time, allowing state officials to quickly reach
them via e-mail in the event of an emergency.
The systems also will help streamline the bureaucracy of the ambulance
services, enabling them to file required trip reports electronically rather
than using error-prone scanning of paper forms. That scanning method produced
error rates of 15 percent to 25 percent, according to Kevin Forsch, director
of Health Systems Development and Regulation in South Dakota's Health Department.
"Also, the services had been begging to get online for testing purposes,
so people could recertify without having to travel" to testing centers,
he said. "The new systems will also allow for electronic billing and give
the services a way of easily communicating with each other."
Electronic filing also will enable the ambulance services to build their
own local databases so they can analyze what emergencies they respond to
and when, Forsch said. They'll then be able to schedule such things as extra
training where it is needed.
Forsch said that more than 80 percent of the ambulance services in South
Dakota are staffed completely by volunteers and have no dedicated funding
sources. The money the services have received from local contributors has
gone toward paying for essentials, and getting into the Electronic Age has
been a lower priority.
Delivery of the systems and computer training was completed in mid-March.
Plans to develop statewide networks are in the works, and the ambulance
services are expected to begin filing reports electronically by May 1.
Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached
at [email protected]
Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.