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CrashHelp system performs successfully in rural Minnesota pilot

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Illustration: J. David Thorpe

Access to emergency medical services (EMS) following a serious crash is a long-standing rural safety problem in the United States. Since EMS service is based on population density, rural areas are often underserved, resulting in higher fatality rates per rural mile traveled.

In an effort to improve the effectiveness of EMS response and care coordination in these rural areas, researchers at the University of Minnesota and Claremont Graduate University have conducted a pilot study of the CrashHelp system in central Minnesota. The study, completed in partnership with the Central Minnesota Regional Trauma Advisory Committee, was funded by the Minnesota Departments of Transportation and Health as part of the Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths program.

CrashHelp is a smartphone-based system that allows emergency responders to collect multimedia data about crash victims on-scene and send it directly into emergency rooms. The information gives hospitals advance notification of crash severity and helps them best prepare for a patient’s arrival.

Between July 2012 and June 2013, CrashHelp was implemented and tested at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby, Tri-County Hospital in Wadena, and the ambulance providers that serve these facilities.

During the pilot, more than 20 paramedics used CrashHelp to report on nearly 400 incidents, with overall positive results. Findings indicated that the system helped improve EMS data collection, communication between EMS personnel and the hospitals’ emergency departments, and decision-making by hospital personnel.

For emergency room staff, the information collected using CrashHelp was especially valuable for preregistering patients and assembling medical teams prior to a patient’s arrival—both of which allowed patients to get treated more quickly.

The pilot study also revealed that deeper integration of CrashHelp with existing trauma workflows, EMS policies and procedures, and existing electronic patient care report and health record systems would be essential for the sustained use and value of the system.

Read the full article in the April issue of Catalyst.

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