Baltimore County Paramedics Stay Connected To Save Lives

May 3, 2013

Inside Nathaniel Wells' ambulance, a laptop connects to the internet through the black mobile wi-fi hotspot, plugged in below. Baltimore County officials have installed hotspots in all of its ambulances to improve service to citizens.
Credit P. Kenneth Burns / WYPR

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz included nearly $31,000 in the budget he delivered to the county council last month to continue to beef up a mobile hotspot system in fire department ambulances. The system includes a laptop computer in the front of the vehicles and a tablet in the back. Both are connected to the outside world by a mobile wi-fi hotspot, which allows the computers to connect to the internet.

Fire Specialist Nathaniel Wells, who works out of the Parkville station, explains that incoming calls will appear on the laptop screen with information on the patient and the location. "If new comments come up or if there are additional comments that they need to give us from say police or other things, they can send it to the computer instead of saying it over the air, “ says Wells, a 6-year veteran with the department.  The ambulance is one of 54 in the county that has been outfitted with mobile hotspots. 

A Kamenetz spokesman it cost $10,000 per vehicle to install the units in the last several years. The money the executive allocated in this budget is to pay for monthly service fees.

Christian Griffin, the fire department’s director of emergency medical services, says officials see the hotspots as a tool to improve service; allowing crews to file their reports in the field as opposed to returning to the station, eliminating delays in getting information to hospital personnel.  “They can transmit their patient care reports to the hospital so the hospital has the ability to receive the report instantaneously,” Griffin said. 

The heart monitor and the Toughbook laptop on the wall are also connected to the internet through a mobile hotspot. The hotspot allows live data from the heart monitor to be transmitted to doctors and nurses while the ambulance is on its away to the hospital.
Credit P. Kenneth Burns / WYPR

Another benefit officials say is being able to transmit live patient information, such as EKG Data, to doctors and nurses while an ambulance is on the way to the hospital in case doctors need to prepare for an emergency procedure. For Specialist Wells, the new technology, which produces typewritten reports, has made a difference in his job.  “In terms of probably being able to read it and it being official for court or other things, it’s probably a lot better.  A lot of times, you have a hard time reading the handwriting from before.”