Friday, February 8, 2013

Commitment, Education, Resources- 3 Keys to Embracing Technology in EMS

Explosion!
What a technology explosion we've witnessed over the past several years! Literally right before our eyes, that computer wonder that once took massive rooms full of moving parts and whirring discs shrunk to power in the palm of our hands. Anyone who’s been around since at least the 1960’s has witnessed a revolution of wonder in hi-tech gadgets, and that revolution has impacted EMS, which grew in parallel.

From Johnny and Roy using crude defibrillators and that amazing box/bag phone with the little flip-up antenna to communicate with Rampart, we’ve evolved in what seems like overnight to the advent of 12-lead EKG’s and writing Patient Care Reports in the palm of our hands. For example, I have a paramedic partner that is killer with using voice-to-text to “write” most of his PCR subjective narratives by speaking into his iPhone, which then converts it flawlessly to text popped right into the ePCR program.

I could not have even dreamed of such a thing even ten years ago. Heck, I remember filling in bubbles on the old “state form” and EMT’s handwriting that was basically chicken scratch.

We’ve come a long way and the sky’s the limit given advances in all sorts of electronic wonders and nano-technology.

But are we really ready?
Okay so we have all this “stuff.” 

Great.  It’s exciting.

But are we really ready?

The EMS billing business embraced all this technology. Thanks to great strides in data collection and seamless integration between dispatch, the field and the billing office, as a billing company we are able to serve clients located just about anywhere. Electronic claim submissions coupled with quick verifications and electronic feedback have revolutionized the industry. 

In order to compete, any EMS billing company must reach out and utilize all sorts of electronic connections to the clients we serve. Enhanced has done this and we’ve determined that the possibilities are limitless.

But, again I ask the question; are we in the EMS industry really ready for all of this?

Commitment, Education and Resources- Plan Ahead!
The answer is “Yes,” we are ready and we can be ready for what the future holds, if your EMS service pledges to focus on three key things.

First, you must commit.

Sure, computers, smart phones and hi-tech gadgets do amazing things. But are you committed and, more importantly, are your staff members committed to making them work?  Have you adopted a culture that will embrace technology or repel it? Given the stress and time-crunch EMS operates under every day, those gadgets still take a human, with a brain, typing away with the fingers to make it all work. Plus, you must have the buy-in and commitment of all levels of your organization or otherwise you’ll frustrate the entire process.

Have you committed the necessary brain power and resolve to work with software vendors many of whom speak in the foreign tongue of “tech-speak”- learn the language or you’ll be left in the dust?

Have you committed the resolve that you’re going to force everyone in your organization to use the software properly and effectively?

Have you thought through the fact that gadgets can break or malfunction, and every now and then, need a basic rebooting, even if you are ten charts down for the day?

Are you going to try to keep paper ledgers that will probably never match with the computer spreadsheet, because the data extracted has changed five times since you logged that crazy, unnecessary handwritten mess? Or is it time for the ledger to meet the shredder and rely on the data that you spend so much to generate?

Bottom line, folks… paper is going away, old processes and procedures probably aren’t going to cut it any longer, and like it or not, we’ve become a new world. Embrace and accept the new mindset and you will propel your organization kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.

Second you must educate.

All this stuff takes brain-power to operate and maintain. Do you have the proper people in your organization that are willing to make this all happen, bring it together and think it through? It’s one thing to have all the toys, but do you really know how to play with them the right way? 

Your software company, the billing company, hardware vendors… they all can provide enormous assistance. It’s what they are there for. But please note, they can only assist. You are the one in the trenches. Air support is on the way, but if the foxhole isn’t deep enough you’re still going to get hit by the hi-tech shrapnel. Duck!

Unless you resolve to continually educate everyone in your organization from the top to the bottom about how all this comes together, you’ll be lost. From the basics of what drives the technology to developing strategies to integrate it all effectively into your daily routine, it takes thought, discussion, idea-sharing and acquiring knowledge every day. All of this runs at such a fast pace, if you don’t stay ahead of it… it will leave you in the dust.

Third, it takes resources.

Resources? Yup… it’s gonna cost some dollars! But think of it as an investment, not an expenditure. First off, consider if those necessary monetary resources are in your budget. Don’t go all-in, high tech unless you can afford to do so the right way.

Your business model must support the infrastructure that’s necessary to make all this stuff run well.  Are you going to host this stuff on lightning fast servers that need maintenance and upgrading on a regular basis? Or maybe you’re thinking about floating all that data to the cloud… but what if the cloud isn’t accessible tomorrow morning when you wake up? Then what? What’s the back-up plan?

Hardware, however durable, will break. Do you have the resources to replace that broken device?

Immediate, seamless communications to write and store a PCR via a mobile hot spot or transmitting a 12-lead instantaneously to the ER requires that your data plan be adequate and those mobile communications devices be working all the time. What’s the cost? Are there areas in your coverage area where 4G just isn’t an option and now that lightning fast device is reduced to typewriter speed with gaps in the transmission? What do you do then… or how much money do you throw at the problem to effectively make it go away and silence the staff who are complaining about the latency that slows them down from completing the PCR and moving to the next run?

I Dream of Jeanie!
If you’re at least 50 years old, you remember Jeanie: that buxom blonde that came from a bottle and wiggled her nose, blinked her eyes and POOF! It happened! Whatever Master Darren wanted there it was- sometimes good and sometimes bad.

That’s kinda what we think happens with technology.

Why it’s a computer. It will save the day! Right? 

Well it can save the day. But will you allow it to save the day? In the end, it still takes good old fashioned human brainpower to make it all work. Commitment, education and resources must be part of your EMS culture. It doesn’t just magically happen with a flick of the “on” button.

YOU must make it happen.

The billing company, the software company, consultants… you name it… we all can help. But in the end, if you’re going to take this leap, then be ready for what it will take to make your organization technologically successful. YOU gotta take the bull by the horns and make it happen methodically, with a process and end-goal in mind.

That’s the intangible that only YOU can make happen. No one else can do that for you.

Are you ready?
We embrace technology at Enhanced Management Services, day in and day out. We’re here to help.  Our model looks to partner with you to make it happen. It still takes you and your staff to work the street and care effectively for your patients using whatever technology is best for you. Only you can follow the rules and regulations set by the Feds and the State. Only you can put your assessments and treatments into that device so it allows us, on the other end, to extract and effectively use and apply that information by turning it into a claim for billing. Only you can insure that this new mindset seeps into every crack and crevice of your organization and everyone has to cooperate or else!

Fast? Sure. Data? Got it. But have you captured what the next person in the loop needs to make their job happen?

Once you’ve done your job, then we’re here to help take it to the next level by sharing data to make the billing process as seamless as is best for you. But it still has to fit into all the right holes and leap all the many hurdles that still await in the information and processing stream.

When it works right, it’s like a hand that slides perfectly into just the right sized glove.

We want to do that with you.  Let us know how we can help!

Not an Enhanced client?  Contact me today at chumphrey@enhancedms.com or visit our website at www.enhancedms.com.
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