By Mary Kate McGrath - March 25, 2020
Rave Prepare and Smart911 are services endorsed by thousands of public safety agencies and currently helps more than 45 million citizens efficiently access emergency services. During the coronavirus pandemic, it can also help PSAPs and Emergency Medical Dispatch Centers quickly comply with CDC's modified caller screening process, track critical resident data, and manage health for vulnerable communities.
Worst case scenario estimates of how many citizens will require hospitalization during the coronavirus pandemic calculate the strain on healthcare systems could increase by almost fourteen million patients over the next four months - way beyond the current national hospital capacity of 738,000 beds. Furthermore, if healthcare systems collapse, it will be impossible for patients with other chronic illnesses to receive adequate treatments, resulting in higher mortality rates for treatable conditions. For this reason, community-members may not want to over-burden call-takers or medical providers, and to ensure that first responders have access to all critical information possible as the crisis continues to unfold in the United States.
Despite advice not to call 9-1-1 in non-emergency situations, many jurisdictions have seen an increase in 9-1-1 calls about coronavirus due to communities being justifiably scared by the disease. (Also, CDC recommendations encourage residents experiencing mild symptoms to call a COVID-19 hotline or primary care physician before going to a medical facility.) The increased volume of calls has placed pressure on operators at Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) and Emergency Medical Dispatch Centers to identify genuine emergencies and determine whether a patient with suspected coronavirus should be transported to hospital or left at home in isolation. By opting into Rave Prepare, safety leaders can leverage a more streamlined caller-screening process, and offer coronavirus-related questions in Smart911 to better address medical concerns as they arise in the community.
Earlier this month, several states introduced new caller screening processes for calls to PSAPs and Emergency Medical Dispatch Centers relating to coronavirus. Soon after, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also modified its guidance for screening callers who may have symptoms of coronavirus and known risk factors - for example, if a caller displaying symptoms of coronavirus has recently travelled abroad or been in contact with a confirmed community transmission of coronavirus.
It is also important for PSAP operators to be aware whether or not the caller has a preexisting health condition that puts them in the high risk category. This longer list of questions in the caller screening process extends the amount of time between a call being made and a response being activated - during which the condition of a person seeking emergency medical help could deteriorate significantly. The extra time taken to process calls may also prevent other emergency calls being attended to.
One community is taking a proactive appropach to this influx of calls by leveraging Smart911. In Suffolk County, Long Island, emergency managers urged residents to sign up for Smart911 to avoid dispatcher congestion. Smart911 gives dispatchers in Suffolk County greater capability to handle, dispatch, and respond to 9-1-1 calls. Suffolk County has also made use of SMS Opt-In capability through Rave Prepare - by texting COVIDSUFFOLK to a preset number, residents can receive the latest updates on the outbreak as it develops.
The length of time it takes to ask callers about preexisting health conditions can be reduced substantially if PSAP operators have access to Rave Prepare and Smart911. Smart911 is a service through which individuals create safety profiles that can include existing health conditions, the medications they are on, and their reliance on medical equipment. When a 9-1-1 call is received at a participating PSAP or Emergency Medical Dispatch Center, operators immediately see the caller’s safety profile and make informed decisions. Integration with Rave Prepare allows safety managers to proactively identify individuals who are high-risk for respiratory infections or immuno-comprised, and tailor communications to help these vulnerable demographics.
Depending on the amount of personal data entered by the individual, PSAP operators may also have access to information such as floor plans of the individual’s property, points of access, the location of AEDs or other life-saving equipment; and - if the individual has recently updated their profile (for which reminders are frequently sent) - whether anybody in their household is in self-quarantine due to having recently travelled abroad or in close contact with a confirmed community transmission of coronavirus. Administrators can also easily target messages based on both conditions and geography to further accommodate vulnerable populations. For example, if an individual was diagnosed with the virus in a housing complex, the public health agency may want to notify all those with a high risk profile for the disease in the vicinity to self-quarantine.
Over the next few months healthcare systems will come under intense pressure, and local government emergency preparedness plans will have to be activated in order to cope with community healthcare requirements. The message in countries already experiencing high volumes of coronavirus cases is to protect the elderly and vulnerable, but identifying the elderly and vulnerable is not straightforward due to regulations such as the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
HIPAA forbids healthcare systems to share personal information about patients and care home residents, so it is difficult for emergency planners to prepare for community healthcare requirements when they are unable to determine what they might be. However, with Smart911, anonymized data can be extracted from the platform in order that emergency planners can identify the number of citizens in their communities in the high risk category and plan accordingly. Once data is solicited through a custom-branded registration process, data validation checks, automated data update reminders, citizen help desk, a mobile app and a “text to register” feature make data collection and management simple for all response agencies.
One of the key benefits of leveraging Rave Prepare and Smart911 is an ability to better care for vulnerable populations. Data solicited from Smart911 lets people get better understanding of the vulnerable residents and their medical needs. Not only can this improve response, should one of these residents have a coronavirus (COVID-19) related incident, but it can also help safety managers better communicate risks and best self-isolating practices to those most at-risk of illness. Administrators can manage remote quarantine check-ins using the technology as well. For those who are a positive or presumptive positive case, automated messages to ensure those at home are being compliant with quarantine guidelines can be sent.
Hopefully, the worst case scenario estimates fail to materialize and healthcare systems survive the coronavirus epidemic. Nonetheless, there has already been an increased volume of calls to PSAPs and Emergency Medical Dispatch Centers, and the modified caller screening process extends the length of time it takes for each call to be resolved. State and local governments can reduce emergency call processing times and better protect vulnerable communities by implementing the Smart911 service.
If you would like to know more about how communities can benefit from the provision of a Smart911 service, do not hesitate to get in touch and speak with one of our safety experts. Our safety experts will be happy to answer any questions about how the service works, and can organize a free demo of the Smart911 service in action for you to identify opportunities to decrease the pressure on operators at PSAPs and Emergency Medical Dispatch Centers so they may better serve the community. Every moment counts during a major crisis - working closely with you and your team, Rave Prepare with Smart911 capability can be launched within three days.
Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.
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