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TODAY news for Thursday, November 2, 2006

Loma Linda University Medical Center news

Center for Prehospital Care, Education, and Research goes live with new system for DISCOVERIES project

Jeff Grange, MD, director of emergency services at Loma Linda University Medical Center, and Jeff Bender, director of the Center for Prehospital Care, Education, and Research, have been busy implementing the many programs run through the center. Since its inception the center now controls six separate programs: an EMS fellowship, an emergency medical care bachelor’s degree, life support education, the CURE Center project, the Mobile Telemedicine Vehicle (MTV), and the DISCOVERIES project. The DISCOVERIES project is currently a test bed for a hub and spoke emergency telemedicine center at LLUMC. The most recent development within this has been the testing of the Advanced Emergency Geographic Information System (AEGIS).

The AEGIS integrates hospitals, dispatchers, fire vehicles, ambulances, helicopters, police services, highway and weather conditions, and public health information into a one-stop information dispenser, becoming an incredible resource management tool. A result of two years of collaboration with the Redlands-based ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute), which specializes in geographic information system modeling and mapping software and technology, the AEGIS now allows dispatchers and emergency responders in the field to know not only where emergency and law enforcement vehicles are, but current weather and traffic conditions that allow for better decision making.

Dr. Grange tells a story about decision making that provided the inspiration to create the AEGIS. Dr. Grange was in a helicopter that had just lifted off the roof of Loma Linda University Medical Center, above the scene of an accident involving a girl. But instead of dispatching that nearby helicopter, San Bernardino County Communications Center dispatched a helicopter from Anaheim.

“There was no way for them to know we were right there,” recalls Dr. Grange. He knows the AEGIS will help with better decisions in the future.

The AEGIS is a web-based system, monitoring and mapping the location and status of emergency resources, such as hospitals, air ambulances, and rescue helicopters.

“It gives us a situational awareness we have never had before,” says Dr. Grange. The system was developed especially for the Center for Pre-Hospital Care, Education, and Research at Loma Linda University Medical Center and unveiled at the ESRI International User Conference in San Diego in August.

A prototype of the system has been used at LLUMC for about four months, says Dr. Grange.

“In case of a major emergency, it provides a single view for emergency personnel in the region,” said Bill Davenhall in an interview with the Redlands Daily Facts newspaper. Mr. Davenall is  health and human services solutions manager for ESRI. “This is the first time that a hospital emergency department has had the tools to achieve situational awareness from multiple sources in one view.”

A server receives the data feeds that show where emergency vehicles are and have been dispatched, traffic conditions on freeways, and the status of area hospitals. All the information can be seen on a digital map. Ambulance staff can know instantly if hospitals are diverting patients by looking at the map, which shows hospitals as an “H.” If the H is a green, it means the emergency room is accepting patients, but if it is yellow, it means the hospital is on diversion status.

The AEGIS helps emergency personnel to reach patients and transport them to hospitals more quickly and more efficiently. Traffic, which once delayed emergency vehicles, can be avoided. If traffic is detected, faster, alternate routes can be taken. California Highway Patrol and California Department of Transportation information shows accident and traffic reports.

AEGIS also allows adverse weather conditions to be avoided. In some cases, a helicopter can be diverted from the scene of one accident when there is bad weather that will prevent the crew from reaching the scene, and sent to another.

“In real time, you can see where the helicopters are and see the weather,” says Dr. Grange. The system was recently upgraded to include fire and law enforcement. In the past, it was primarily medical based. “I think it can revolutionize response times for fire and law enforcement,” remarks Dr. Grange.

The Loma Linda, Colton, and San Bernardino fire departments each have tracking devices on two of their units. Redlands Fire Department will be the next to receive devices, says Mr. Bender. The devices allow the fire department vehicles to be traced on the map at all times.

The AEGIS gives all of this situational information to paramedics and first responders in the field as well. As long as an Internet connection is available, they will be able to see road conditions and hospital status.

As part of the DISCOVERIES project (Demonstrating Innovative Solutions to Care for Others Via Electronic Real-time Information and Emergency Services), there is no cost to agencies using the system. The expenses are covered by the grant funding the DISCOVERIES project, says Dr. Grange.

Mr. Bender wants to get tracking devices on all the vehicles in the four fire departments when more funding becomes available.

All the system’s information is available to those in dispatch and emergency service personnel via the Internet as long as they have a password to the system, says Dr. Grange. “It is mobile and something you can access if you are a battalion chief at a fire, or a dispatcher, or at a hospital,” he says.

By Preston Clarke Smith

TODAY news for Thursday, November 2, 2006