This is the latest in a series of blogs highlighting FirstNet’s Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC). The PSAC consists of members representing associations and agencies from all disciplines of public safety, as well as state, territorial, tribal, and local governments, and provides guidance and recommendations to FirstNet in carrying out its duties and responsibilities. Its input is invaluable to the development of the FirstNet network.
Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers respond to life-threatening emergencies and help safeguard communities nationwide. In providing urgent and immediate medical care, EMS providers face a unique set of communications needs and concerns. They need broadband devices and applications to quickly send advanced diagnostic information and implement advanced treatments. EMS organizations represent a sizeable portion of the public safety community, and FirstNet’s increased communications capabilities could vastly enhance the execution of their life-saving mission. EMS providers are continually looking for ways to implement new technologies into pre-hospital care to save more lives and improve patient outcomes.
Each state has its own EMS regulating agency, and many of the officials running these bodies are members of the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO). Led by the current president, Keith Wages, a strong FirstNet supporter, NASEMSO is a nationwide organization that develops EMS policy, acts as a voice for the EMS community, and provides information and research on EMS-related issues. Recently, NASEMSO has been developing fatigue risk management guidelines for EMS practitioners, revising the National EMS Scope of Practice Model, and advocating for a universal mechanism to deal with EMS practitioners who work across state lines.
NASEMSO has been a strong and early supporter of FirstNet, and has continually been involved in the nationwide public safety broadband network’s planning and development, advising on how the network can best serve EMS providers. Last year, NASEMSO passed a resolution calling on all EMS providers to “prepare for and support” the FirstNet network. NASEMSO publicized this statement of support for FirstNet, for which FirstNet CEO Mike Poth expressed much appreciation. NASEMSO has been crucial in increasing awareness of FirstNet among EMS providers throughout the country. The NASEMSO resolution states that “the practice of EMS and its impact on patient care will be substantially improved and…EMS professionals will become the most prevalent FirstNet users.”
FirstNet has worked closely with NASEMSO Immediate Past President Paul Patrick, who is a member of FirstNet’s Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) Executive Committee and the Director of EMS for the Utah Department of Health. Mr. Patrick, also a strong FirstNet advocate, has been involved in creating apps for use by EMS practitioners. The list of apps for EMS personnel is “just growing and growing,” Patrick said. “That just opened my mind to the possibilities of what this network is going to provide for emergency medical services.” Patrick’s work on the PSAC and the input that he and others have given FirstNet will help ensure that the FirstNet network meets the needs of public safety users.
In addition, FirstNet Board Member Kevin McGinnis, the Chief of North East Mobile Health Services in Maine, served as a NASEMSO advisor and program manager for several years. McGinnis recently told FirstNet that NASEMSO has a “vital interest” in participating in the FirstNet PSAC “because we see FirstNet as being a vital backbone to communications on EMS systems in the direction of where we want it to grow. Without that backbone, you're going to remain stalled in the use of technology to serve patients in the field."
The FirstNet network will enable all types of EMS personnel to exchange key diagnostic information with doctors and provide treatment to patients like never before. The network’s capabilities should improve situational awareness, decision-making, and allow for the use of new technology tools.
Providing rural patients with the same level of care as patients in more urban settings is a continuing challenge to NASEMSO and EMS providers. One potential solution is the use of telemedicine, which allows top tier, urban-based care providers to see and talk with patients and care providers in rural settings. The FirstNet network will enable exchange of real‐time data and audio/video feeds between EMS personnel and hospital staff. This kind of connection will help improve technologies like telemedicine, benefitting rural and urban responders alike.