Report Finds Ambulances Reach Emergencies Faster as Communities Cooperate
November 23, 2004
Sharyn Wisniewski, Dane County (608) 267-8823; 712-1950 (cell)
Melanie Conklin, City of Madison (608) 266-4611; 516-2075 (cell)
Ambulance response times have been faster since Dane County and four communities moved to streamline Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulance service to people experiencing life threatening injury or illness, according to an Interim Report released today.
Dane County and the Cities of Madison and Middleton, Town of Madison and Fitch-Rona EMS agreed in June to participate in a pilot program to provide county-wide service in life-threatening situations. Sun Prairie later joined in when it added ALS service to its Basic Life Support (BLS) emergency service.
Dane County provided $50,000 to support the data gathering needed to determine the results of the pilot program, and will provide another $50,000 in 2005 to carry on the pilot. The dollars allow all participating ALS providers to receive $150 per ALS patient contact for the duration of the pilot.
The idea of the pilot is simple: the Dane County Public Safety Communications (911) Center dispatches the closest available appropriately equipped ambulance to life-threatening emergencies, regardless of any geographical boundaries.
“Our goal was to get help to people faster by working together. We did it, and our citizens are seeing real benefits,” said Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. “We’ve cut the time for EMS response; we’ve made a strong EMS system in our county even better.” The EMS system includes both Basic Life and Advanced Life Service providers.
Dane County has invested in upgrading the training and software used by 911 dispatchers to provide Priority Medical Dispatch. This allows the dispatcher to more accurately pinpoint the nature of the call and to send the most appropriate level of response.
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said, “Regional collaboration is really paying off when it matters most. We're getting to the citizens who are suffering from the most serious medical conditions faster. We've cut more than seven minutes from response times and replaced a fragmented response system for Advance Life Support services with one seamless system. This is truly a success story."
The Interim Report covers the time period from June 18 through September 28, when 291 calls for ALS service were made. Following are key findings:
· Because ALS ambulances are now being dispatched at the same time as the BLS ambulance in cases determined to be life-threatening, approximately seven minutes have been cut from ALS response times. Previously, BLS providers arrived at the scene first, analyzed the seriousness of the situation, then called for paramedic level (ALS) support if the emergency was life-threatening.
· The distribution of calls shows that the burden is being shared proportionately between the four (now five) providers.
· The concern that an ambulance operating outside its jurisdiction would result in lack of coverage in the home jurisdiction, called “backfill” was unfounded.
John H. Melby, Jr., chairman of Fitch-Rona EMS, said, "I was most pleased to see that there have only been two instances of the need for "backfill" out of 291 calls and there was substantial distribution of the workload to all the participating ALS communities. Great results!"
The next step is for the Dane County 911 Center and the ALS ambulances to be fully upgraded with Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) technology. Automatic Vehicle Locators will be installed in all 15 of the municipal ALS ambulances, which allows dispatchers in the 911 Center to see where ALS ambulances are located at any given time. Dane County is contributing $130,000 in state Homeland Security grants and the City of Madison has budgeted $65,000 for the technology upgrade.
The Dane County Department of Emergency Management, under the direction of Kathy Krusiec, staffs the pilot program. A steering committee is monitoring its progress, evaluating its success and studying needs and benefits of the collaboration. A data collection committee reviews and analyzes the data resulting from the pilot program.
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