Apps for first responders give access to real-time patient information, putting them in the best position to make clinical decisions.

Using technology, such as mobile apps for first responders, helps improve patient outcomes because it saves time and possibly lives. From stroke patients to car crash victims, the seconds matter when you’re trying to save a life.

DrFirst is the Rockville, Md. company that designed Backline, a mobile app that uses barcode technology to gain access to information like patient name, address, zip code, gender and date of birth. Simply scan the barcode on the patient’s driver’s license and the app also shows recent pharmacy transactions within six months.

Technology partners with healthcare

The company partnered with King’s Daughters Medical Center (KDMC) in Brookhaven, Miss., as the first beta test site. Here, health care professionals can effectively test apps for first responders, said Linda Fischer, VP of product strategy for DrFirst.

Backline uses secure communications that complies with all HIPAA, HiTech Act, and Joint Commission requirements. The app picks up “prescriptions sent across the transmission network,” that all pharmacies use, Fischer added.

Lee Robbins, RN, BSN, director of EMS with King’s Daughters Medical Center, sheds light on how first responders are using this innovative mobile technology to speed up treatment and deliver better patient care.

Paramedics find apps designed for first responders especially useful when arriving on scene with an unconscious patient who sustained blunt force trauma and cannot share recent medication use — or when they need to treat an incapacitated stroke patient, Robbins said.

Information from the app can also help first responders prevent drug interactions because they can see recent prescription activity.

“Let’s say it’s a stroke patient and they’re unconscious so we cannot get a patient history,” said Robbins. “With the app, you can get a list of all the medications the patient has had in the last six months, things like anti-coagulants.”

Apps for first responders lead to faster treatment

The secure messaging feature on the app facilitates communication between first responders and the emergency department (ED). When first responders send all the patient info to the ED, the ED registers the patient and checks them into the system quickly. This helps to expedite doctors’ orders.

“They [stroke patient] can get a CT scan faster because they’re already registered in the system,” Robbins stated. “And CT scan results are read quicker so it decreases needle time — which is the time from entering the ED and receiving antithrombotics, medication used to increase blood flow to the brain.”

In the case of blunt force trauma, such as a car crash, paramedics can securely send pictures from the scene of the crash back to the emergency department which provides more information to the medical team.

“Nurses and doctors in the ED will know the mechanism of injury, like if they were struck on the passenger door side,” Robbins said. “Also, seeing the amount of damage to the vehicle is helpful.”

With the app, first responders also send EKG images back to the ED before the patient arrives.

“Doctors can see the EKG and see if the patient has a life threatening arrhythmia so they have a better idea how to treat the patient,” Robbins said.

Physicians at KDMC like the app because it expedites patient registrations.

“As soon as the patient arrives and is registered, doctors are getting them treated faster,” he said. “It’s a tool we can use to speed up the process of patient care.”

Better diagnostic decisions

Take a patient in a coma. It’s hard to know the cause for certain. But a quick glance at recent pharmacy activity lets first responders draw plausible conclusions and make “educated decisions” about the cause. If they see an insulin order in their pharmacy history, chances are that patient is in a diabetic coma, rather than a narcotic overdose coma.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.6 million people died from diabetes in 2016. High blood glucose accounted for another 2.2 million deaths in 2012.

“If a person is on insulin, narcan will not help them,” Fischer said. “It won’t hurt them, but you are delaying treatment of the real issue.”

Adverse drug reactions affect more than 2 million Americans every year — it ranks as the fourth leading cause of death.

Keep in mind, if a patient uses illicit, non-prescribed narcotics, apps cannot capture or report that information.

Next steps

DrFirst recently received a grant from the state of Maryland to expand the use of mobile apps for first responders in the healthcare space.

“I see it expanding rapidly based on responses… from EMS providers and 911 service providers,” Fischer said. “It’s mainly because no one has ever offered clinical information in the field to first responders even though they are the first ones treating the patients.”

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