When Mason County, West Virginia needed broadband for their public safety agencies, they considered many options and ultimately decided to go with FirstNet because of coverage. Now all EMS agencies in this rural county use FirstNet for their communications, making a difference for providers and patients alike.
Helping patients get faster care
Matthew Gregg has worked for 20 years in public safety in Mason County, as an EMT, in 9-1-1, and leading the emergency management agency. He says FirstNet is helping patients get better and faster care, especially when ambulance rides can be 45 minutes to the nearest advanced care hospital.FirstNet-enabled technology in Mason County’s ambulances help keep the EMS team communicating with dispatch and hospitals. Each ambulance has a FirstNet hotspot that connects to a tablet for patient charting. A second tablet is connected to the computer-aided dispatch system for mapping and call information. “Our dispatchers are already able to cut down our response time with technology and having mobile broadband in the ambulance provided by FirstNet,” says Gregg.
The EMS teams can see real-time traffic jams, road closures, and detours, and map out the most efficient routes to and from a call. With this technology, patients get to the hospital faster for advanced care.
Bringing advanced care into the ambulance
FirstNet is also bringing advanced care into the ambulance. Using innovative diagnostic equipment in the ambulance, health data is sent directly to the hospital. This allows doctors and other providers to remotely start care before the patient even arrives at the hospital.
For example, when a patient is experiencing a cardiac event, the ambulance’s cardiac monitor sends EKG data to the hospital via a FirstNet connection. The hospital can then assemble a cardiac team, prepare a cath lab with specialized cardiac capabilities, and even direct EMS clinicians to administer a first dose of medicine – all before the patient arrives at the hospital.
“The hospital is receiving real-time data of what's going on for a patient that may be 15 to 30 or 40 minutes away from the hospital,” says Gregg. “So, when our ambulance arrives, they're able to literally bypass the ER, go directly to advanced care, and do the best for the patient that we can do.”
Unique benefits of FirstNet
FirstNet is built for public safety and has features unique to public safety operations, including interoperability and security. Mason County hosts an annual festival that brings 14,000 visitors a day, which is more than half the county’s population. Even with this influx of people, all public safety officials on site can communicate with each other using FirstNet’s interoperability.
“No matter if it is local responders, state responders, or federal responders, we now at least have the ability to have everybody on the same page from the word go,” says Gregg.
FirstNet gives public safety enhanced security because it is built with a dedicated core – physically separate infrastructure that helps to protect information being shared and received by first responders.
Gregg says, “Having mobile broadband, we're able to have more secured radio traffic or communications between our field units and the dispatch center and among field units to other field units.”
In the near future, the county is looking to integrate FirstNet push-to-talk with their land-mobile radio system. Gregg says one of the benefits of push-to-talk is that off-duty responders will always have access to two-way communications on their smartphones. He says, “We want to make sure that we're prepared for next month, next year, and the year after—that we future proof what we can.”
Gregg stresses that Mason County has put in work to get the returns they’re seeing. He says, “There's going to be plenty of learning curves and stepping stones. But you have to have somebody that's willing to say this is the direction we're going and go with it.”
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