Local emergency medical services are set to receive some potentially life saving technology as part of a state-sponsored program. Gov. Kristi Noem’s office, along with Avel eCare are calling the new initiative “Telemedicine in Motion.”
“This initiative will connect patients with physician and nurse professionals who can assist in assessment, treatment, and transfer to an appropriate facility. And the strong level of connectivity means that these services will help South Dakotans in even the most remote corners of our state,” Noem said in a November press release.
The Pierre area will not only be one of the first to test out the new technology, but one of the most populous as well. While each ambulance will still have at least two medics on board, the updates to the vehicles will offer an additional observer. Matt Hardwick, Operations Supervisor at American Medical Response, hoped these new devices will give those in the field a leg up.
“Pierre is kinda a diverse area and that’s one reason we got chosen as a pilot program. Not only do we have the cities, but we cover a large rural area,” Hardwick said.
Hanging up in the AMR office is a reminder of the area they provide with ambulance services. Between Hughes and Stanley counties are more than 2,000 square miles, sometimes taking an hour to arrive on scene.
“When we listen to the rural citizens their biggest thing is that it takes an hour to get to an ambulance and an hour to get to the hospital,” Hardwick said.
When the device is activated, they’ll be connected to the “E-Helm” in Sioux Falls where medical professionals can provide assistance.
“They’ll be kinda watching over our shoulders,” Hardwick said. “They’re an extra set of eyes. They’re able to double check meds for us. They’re able to help us with interventions.”
Simply being able to have someone to bounce ideas off of would be helpful enough. They’re also going to be able to call ahead for patients in need of critical care.
“It’s probably going to speed up the process of getting patients out of Pierre if they need to be transferred out of Pierre,” Hardwick said.
Knowing in advance what condition the patient is currently in will allow those at the “E-Helm” to coordinate emergency medical flights.
“It’s harder to get people into EMS. There are shortages in staffing and there are shortages in the number of people. This is one way to not only help our bigger paid services but also with the volunteer services,” Hardwick said.
Robb Price is the owner of GREVO Outfitters, which started in 2008 as I-29 Emergency Vehicle Products. Robb is uniquely qualified to install the technology, considering he’s an EMT himself. While the technology that’s being installed can be found in most office settings, the application of it is unique to the setting.
They’ve had to jump through a few hoops to make all the necessary changes to not be in the way.
“For us, we specialize in emergency vehicle equipment outfitting. So it’s not that big of a challenge for us. It’s really getting the technology to work together with the software in a mobile environment, compared to a static environment like an office,” Robb said.
“I’m able to look at this and go, ‘No, we can’t do it that way because in an ambulance we have to do this and that’s going to be a problem,’” he said.
While GREVO is only responsible for installing the equipment, how it’s implemented will fall onto first responders themselves.
“It’s exciting to see really modern and cutting edge technology going into the emergency response whether it’s ambulances or police cars. That’s what we do and we like seeing how people use it,” GREVO technician Daniel Price said.
Their “go live” event will take place Jan. 4 at 6 p.m. at Pierre Fire Station No. 1.