Fire departments have been required to track records around patient care, fire incidents, and personnel for decades, but changes in regulatory requirements and available technology have driven records management systems to rapidly evolve. Unfortunately, not all vendors have responded to these changes with viable solutions, and more and more fire departments are looking for the opportunity to replace their existing applications with a new solution. Though there is always risk involved in switching software, there are many benefits worth considering when replacing your RMS.
These next two posts will take fire departments through the opportunities and risks of switching records management software. First, we will discuss the benefits that best-of-breed RMS applications are delivering now. The second post will discuss some best practices to help guide vendor selection activities which will prepare you to mitigate the risks for an RMS initiative.
The Increasing Value of Innovative Records Management Systems
A lot has changed in the last ten or fifteen years, in terms of NEMSIS and NFIRS requirements, but also technology. It no longer makes sense for firefighters to be constrained to perform all incident reporting at one terminal per department. Fire agencies and the public want accurate, instant reports and data; the expectation is that data should be free to flow seamlessly to and from the field.
Another factor is reporting and analytics, having a deeper look into what your department is doing, personnel, incidents, how many incidents and what type. From the EMS side, it can be making sure your paramedics are correctly tracking narcotics in ambulances or making sure you have an accurate record of what was used and for what patient. Old RMS was incapable of facilitating these tasks, which are now a part of the job. Also, fire leaders increasingly feel a duty to provide richer reporting to their constituents and governing bodies but they struggle to get meaningful data from their legacy applications.
The cloud has made solutions to these problems relatively simple to execute. RMS with mobile functions allows data input and output from anywhere, anytime. This means mobilized reporting, real-time tracking, the ability to deliver critical information to firefighters in the field as well as fill out reports, inspections or patient care data while still in the field.
RMS vendors that have kept pace with fire departments’ changing needs are in an increasingly valuable position, whereas others that have not adapted are increasingly antiquated by comparison, from a security standpoint, from a compliance standpoint, and from a technology standpoint.
7 Benefits of Replacing RMS for Fire Departments
RMS vendors have evolved rapidly, particularly in the last ten or fifteen years. Increasingly efficient, accurate, intuitive systems have gained critical capabilities around complex NEMSIS regulations for patient care reporting while providing hospital data exchange capabilities. Rostering options, fleet maintenance, life safety and inventory are also increasingly more available with richer functionality along with mobile capability. Records management systems have evolved into a complex, enterprise-wide tool — an ERP for fire departments.
If your RMS vendor has not kept pace, the benefits of switching can be considerable.
- Advanced Patient Care Reporting — When you have older tools and less information, you are limited in the service you can provide. Innovative RMS vendors are even bringing instant access to patient histories, so fire departments can see if you or anyone in your department has interacted with the patient before in real-time. Then your team is armed with all the information it needs to make the right decisions. Also gone are the days of handing off a paper record at the hospital emergency room of the care given in the field. The most forward-thinking vendors have electronic data transfer capabilities right from the paramedic’s mobile device that can be imported right into the hospital’s electronic patient records system, saving time and preventing errors by having accurate patient information instantly.
- Mobile Access — On a busy day, firefighters come back to the station at the end of the shift, and spend 3-4 hours doing reports on overtime when they could have been doing that on the apparatus on the way back to the station. New RMS unlocks mobile access so officers can finish reports from anywhere, anytime.
- Efficient Incident Tracking — Whereas older RMS might require 15-30 minutes to fill out an incident report on average and 45 minutes to an hour for more complex reports, the newer systems reduces those standard report times to 5-7 minutes, freeing up firefighters and paramedics to do more value-added activities.
- Accurate Incident Tracking — When you’re writing something down on a notepad or glove or a piece of tape, there’s a very large chance of losing some of that information. Newer systems can capture what actually happened with features like time tracking, time stamping, taking information directly from the system, as well as pre-populating data, so your personnel can focus more on their jobs rather than tracking each of those pieces of information while on scene.
- Easier to Use — Modern vendors have made significant steps forward in user experience. Their RMS is designed to walk personnel through the process, as opposed to being complex, counterintuitive, or difficult to understand. Knowing what to put into reports is one of the biggest challenges for personnel.
- Rostering — New applications can automatically call backup when someone is out sick; they can rank replacements; they respond to the complexities of managing firefighters who are on shifts 24-48 hours long, reorganizing the roster while maintaining compliance with training requirements, as well as tracking vacation and sick time.
- Venture Capital Backing — Software companies who have attracted financing have been pre-vetted by savvy investors. This is a tell-tale sign that the product will continue to keep pace with research and development so the next time an industry metric changes, the software vendor will be able to redevelop the product to keep up with newer standards.
Best-of-Breed RMS Solutions Will Deliver Maximum Benefits
The RMS market is still maturing. And no one vendor currently has a solution that is comprehensive with ideal functionality across all business areas. And because every fire department is different, it is common for departments to select a strategic combination of best-of-breed applications to provide critical department functions while minimizing integrations and ultimately data silos. Ideally, the right combination of applications will bring together the department’s patient care data, incidents, rosters and personnel so data can be managed and accessible to stakeholders across the organization with easy access and reliability.
If your fire department is interested in potentially switching RMS vendors, this article has hopefully helped you to more fully understand why a switch could be the best decision.
Our next article will develop next steps you can take to explore options.