"The best thing FirstNet offers to us here at DHR Health is a reliable means of communication"
As the director of emergency medical services at DHR Health, my job is to maintain good relations between EMS, fire, law enforcement. Anything they may need, I'm here to facilitate it for them. And I’m here to keep them up to date with new procedures, new equipment, new personnel, new expansions that we may be doing.
It's important for hospitals to have that position because as a medic, you don’t know what a hospital can provide unless you're there. Or you have somebody providing you with that knowledge.
What FirstNet offers
The best thing FirstNet offers to us here at DHR Health is a reliable means of communication. We have a network we can rely on if there's a major incident, if there's a storm. We can use FirstNet to communicate with other providers, whether it's pre-hospital, people at our own facility, or a surgeon who needs to know about a patient coming in.
For example, being on the ambulance. We would either contact through radio or we would use our cell phones to call and report to the facility to let them know we're coming in with a patient. This is our ETA. This is our status.
As a hospital, we get all sorts of different patients – by helicopter, ambulance, or it may be the patient driving themselves in. And communication is key.
That’s why I made the switch to FirstNet.
When we take a patient care report or when we give a patient care report, the most important thing you're going to start with is age, gender, the chief complaint, how it happened and their current status. Depending on the situation, you may provide more or less information.
So let's say you're working a cardiac arrest. Time is key. Medications are key. Have you established an airway? Have you established a line for this patient to give these medications? All those become central to the outcome.
We could just show up without calling in a report. We could show up without saying anything, but then you have that delay of five, six minutes that it takes to provide that information to the staff and then for it to transmit to the other individuals on the staff.
Five minutes is a long time in the medical field. Any time that we can save is beneficial for the patients.
The Golden Hour
Right now, the standard is the golden hour. The clock starts ticking from the point of injury. If you're in a critical incident, you have an hour to get to a facility, which substantially increases your odds of survival. Whether you’re out in the mountains, out in the hills, or down the street, the standard has always been if you arrive within an hour – your survivability will increase significantly
And when it comes down to the golden hour, communication is key.
You need to communicate with your teammates, your partners. We need to extricate the patient. We need to start this level of care with the patient. Once we load the patient, we still need to continue to communicate with our partners, with the patient, and then the hospital.
Once you're transporting, we have our monitors, we have our I.V. pumps. And we can transmit all the information about everything we're doing on scene to the hospital – whether it's from our cardiac monitor, our ventilator. We transmit everything we do. Certain systems even have a process where you can monitor the whole ambulance from inside the E.R.
Before FirstNet, communication through radio was the standard. While we're used to being independent, you really can’t function as a team if you don’t have a way to communicate with your leaders. Network reliability is very important out in the field. If we can't communicate, we can't do anything.
For example, in In 2020, we had a hurricane come in. There was a specific patient that just kept calling. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get to the house because of weather conditions. There was flooding because of the storm. And trees were blocking off all the different accesses to the home. It was extremely frustrating.
We drowned two units actually trying to go out there. As a paramedic, you’re thinking what can I do for that patient? How am I going to get to that patient? We couldn’t communicate. I gave up and I just grabbed the trauma bag. And I walked. By the time I got there, nobody was there anymore.
Making the switch
Following the hurricane in 2020, I found it to be very stressful. I switched over from a different provider onto FirstNet. It's great. I have a phone. I have a tablet. I have a watch.
My watch has its own line. My tablet has its own line. It's great to live stress free. Having FirstNet really allows me to focus on my job at hand. When there's a critical incident, it's helpful to know that if I need to, I can just send a text over. I can call just to make sure that my mom's doing fine, make sure that my fiancé is doing fine.
FirstNet provides first responders with peace of mind because if we had to, we could reach out to our family members during stressful times to make sure that everything is fine. Once we know they're fine, we can do our job to its full extent without having to worry is my family fine. While we love our jobs, our family comes first.
Since I've been on FirstNet, personally I've had a lot better patient outcomes.
We see a lot of flooding here in this area and weather has been acting up quite frequently. The service is usually spotty. But having FirstNet – let's say I'm transporting somebody in cardiac arrest and I can't communicate via the radio – I can just call and it works. That’s the most important part.
I can reach out and let them know I'm coming in with X patient. That’s very beneficial to the patient and to us as providers. We know we're doing everything we can and we're actually accomplishing our goals.
FirstNet is very reliable. My devices never have any issues when it comes to service.
At the end of the day, FirstNet helps us to save lives. Being able to communicate with the very first person on scene to the very last person is essential. It's the whole reason we do this.
Daniel Tuttle is the director of emergency medical services at DHR Health in Edinburg, Texas.