As part of a Department of Defense-funded research project, the Nashville Fire Department and Vanderbilt University Medical Center will be working together to test a new sensor-based technology that provides those in hospital emergency departments with real-time health data for incoming patients en route via emergency services.

According to EMS 1, the technology – called the Automated Sensing Clinical Documentation system – is intended to make the process of civilian and military patient handoffs between paramedics and emergency departments more efficient. The project was funded by a $1.7 million grant from the DOD awarded at the beginning of December, a Health Data Management article reports.

Sensor technology transmits real-time patient health data
With sensors worn on paramedics' wrists that can create patient care records using automated machine learning, the ASCD system transmits activity data in real time to ED doctors and surgeons that allows them to better prepare. Two Nashville Fire paramedics tested the technology earlier in the year, and the results of that feasibility study were presented at the annual American Medical Informatics Association symposium.

According to Vanderbilt School of Medicine professor and project lead Daniel Fabbri, the technology automatically interprets signals from accelerometers worn by paramedics, which in turn allows them to focus their attention on keeping a patient stable until arrival at the ED.

"The specific focus (of the study) is how to improve patient care and clinical documentation during transport in military and civilian cases," he told HDM. "To think that a civilian paramedic or a military medic's hand and body movements can generate a medical record or alert the hospital of an incoming patient's condition is phenomenal," said one member of Nashville FD EMS.

Issues with inefficiencies in EMS-ED information transfer
The research comes amid documented cases of patients who have died as a result of paramedic-ED in-transit communication inefficiencies. For example, one recent report conducted by ProPublica documented several cases in which Rhode Island patients transported to EDs via emergency services had died as the result of EMS personnel having improperly inserted breathing tubes. The tubes were inserted to direct air into the patients' stomachs instead of their lungs, details showed.

With appropriate document and data management measures in place, organizations like hospitals and municipally-operated emergency services can ensure that sensitive information such as a patient's record is not only protected, but readily available to all necessary parties.