EMS SignPost Project

ARTICLE | Jun 18, 2014

The City of Montgomery, Ohio is a vibrant, high-quality, family-oriented city of 10,000 that embraces its future while valuing the traditions and history of its past.  It is located in the northeastern corner of Hamilton County Ohio, part of the Greater Cincinnati Metropolitan Area.  For many years Montgomery government leaders have been very forward-thinking in finding ways of collaborating and engaging with the community in the development of programs that contribute to a high quality of life.

On its quest to better engage residents, Montgomery has put a major emphasis on using electronic means of communicating and interacting to allow for the widest reach to the community.  Development of electronic channels has evolved over time from a traditional website to communication through mobile devices and social media.  The next step in this evolution is the creation of a new program called EMS SignPost. The program is currently available only to residents of Montgomery.

“EMS SignPost is what we call ‘A calm voice in a crisis’,” explains Paul Wright, Montgomery Fire Department Chief. “When EMS personnel are in your home treating a loved one, this program quickly and efficiently grants access to health history, medications and other important information that assists in giving care to the patient.”

Think of EMS SignPost as an abbreviated version of a person’s health history stored in an electronic safety deposit box. It will include items such as medications, persistent health conditions, allergies and doctor’s contact information. A special access code to the “safety deposit box” is stored on the resident’s refrigerator via a magnetic ID card. During a 911 health emergency, the City’s first responder will use a smart phone and scan the code to quickly, reliably and securely access the health history to aid in the job of managing the emergency situation.

“When there’s an emergency, access to my health information is critical,” noted Montgomery resident Karen Schwartz. “I feel so much more protected since EMS SignPost gives the paramedics this information immediately. I am secure in knowing that my family can access my personal health information when they need it, too. My family and I really appreciate that Montgomery is the first city in our county to have this free service.”

Those choosing to take advantage of the service will also have unlimited access to “CaringTies” Personal Health Manager. This web tool provides a comprehensive way to track healthcare activities along with the ability to share that information with appropriate family, friends and other care team members. EMS SignPost is integrated with CaringTies. When changes are recorded in CaringTies, they are automatically available during a health emergency.

EMS SignPost is a product that was jointly developed by a Cincinnati-based company, electronic commerce link (ec link), http://www.eclink.com/, and the City of Montgomery.  The City and ec link have worked closely together to define the information needs of the EMT at the time of the emergency and also the operational processes necessary to collect the appropriate information and effectively run the program over time.  Montgomery’s Fire Chief, Paul Wright, along with Lieutenant Tom Wolf worked directly with ec link to direct the software development project.

Here is how EMS SignPost works:

Resident Signup

  • Residents opt into the program.
  • The resident, by themself, with the assistance of a care giver, or with assistance from an EMS representative, electronically enters information about themself and their health status.
  • The resident is provided the option to add:
    • Their picture
    • Advance directive documents such as “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR), or a Medical Power of Attorney
    • The resident is issued a smart refrigerator magnet that uniquely identifies them with their EMS SignPost account.  This card is affixed to the refrigerator door in their residence.  This is the key that gives the EMS responder access to the stored information.
    • When changes about their health condition occur, the resident or their care giver access and update their records via the public Internet from any Internet connected device.

First Responder Emergency Run

  • The first responder enters the resident’s home
  • Looks for the EMS SignPost ID card on the resident’s refrigerator
  • Uses a smart phone to “tap and read” the ID card
  • The resident’s latest health information quickly displays on the EMT’s smart phone.
  • Documents that have been saved (i.e. DNR) can be downloaded and examined
  • Proceeds with assisting the resident armed with accurate health information

The EMS SignPost program is managed by the Montgomery Fire Department and Julee Nies, the Fire Department Administrative Assistant, who acts as the overall administrator for the system and support for resident inquiries.  Communication and marketing of the program is performed through several channels that have been developed by Faith Lynch, Montgomery’s Communications and Engagement Coordinator.  Ms. Lynch also created a public relations announcement that resulted in an interview and broadcast by Local 12 (TV) News (http://youtu.be/0BXfJ5q9AQQ) which was reposted on CNN.

The outlook for the service is exciting.  Resident reactions have been extremely positive, the Local 12 TV broadcast generated over 500 Facebook likes and comments on the station’s website with a high degree of praise for the initiative.  Plans are already in place to add features to the software that provide the Fire Department with more visibility into the growing EMS SignPost community and also to create features that provide automatic actions.  One example of this is to monitor the “last updated” date of the residents’ health information and to automatically send notices reminding them that their information needs to be updated.  There are many enhancement opportunities that are being identified and planned for future releases.

For more information, visit http://montgomeryohio.org/emssignpost or call the fire department at 985-1633 Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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