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The Move to Mobile: The Case for Rugged Tablet Adoption by EMS

EMS providers today are trying to increase efficiency and reduce response times. Requests for ambulance transportation are rising, due in part to an aging population, mental health, lack of transportation and other factors.

Rugged Tablet PC for EMSTo improve efficiency and data sharing, increasing numbers of EMS organizations are adopting or examining digital charting options. With the appropriate software, one entry can allow data use by dispatch, electronic patient charting, and integrated billing services. Data can be communicated to hospitals so that the most efficient route to an accident can be determined.  The ideal platform for these functions is a rugged tablet PC.

Only five years ago, rugged tablet PC use in the field was unheard of. Rugged tablets were larger, heavier and data could be lost if a battery failed. In the past three years, significant advances in rugged tablet design have occurred.  Tablets are lighter (weighing in at only 2.5 pounds) and smaller, making it practical to carry them on-site.  Tablets are more durable, coming in different grades from semi-rugged to rugged (MIL-STD-810 rating and up to IP65 sealant rating).  This Department of Defense standard indicates that a rugged tablet has passed testing under conditions such as heat, cold, vibration and even dropping the rugged tablet onto a hard surface 26 times on all faces, edges and corners from several feet.

This rating is important when you’re in the field, it’s raining outside, and you’re triaging patients; or you’re in a rapidly moving emergency vehicle in a rural area with dirt roads.

Rugged Tablet Selection Criteria Used by One EMS Organization

When one of the larger providers of EMS services in the state of Texas wanted to improve operational efficiency, they chose to convert from paperwork to tablets in 2009.

Here is a list of criteria for selection.

1. Compatibility with software that would integrate with dispatch (CAD), patient data and billing.

2. Durability: The tablets had to hold up when exposed to real-world environmental conditions

3. The ability to use existing software on the platform

4. Security: the ability to lock the software on the tablet, to prevent open data

5. Mounting: the ability to lock the tablet down in the ambulance and undock to carry onsite or into the hospital to capture patient data.

6. Total cost of ownership.

Rugged tablet PCs were once the wave of the future. But with the need for rapid, accurate charting and improved data sharing efficiency, this mobile technology is now not only practical, but increasingly becoming an important tool for improving operational efficiency.

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