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6/25/2008
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Hospital Implements High-Tech Emergency Response System

Location-based mapping system helps public safety officials, hospitals, and emergency responders more quickly and efficiently get aid to people in trouble.

GPS-enabled cell phones and other mobile location-tracking technologies used for Enhanced 911 capabilities are helping emergency response workers find people in trouble.

The deployment of a geographic information system and mobile applications in southern California is enabling emergency response personnel to more quickly and efficiently deploy rescue teams based on near real-time data about traffic conditions, the location of nearby ambulances and helicopters, and other factors, such as bed availability at area hospitals.

And soon, field personnel will be able to use mobile devices, including cell phones and laptop computers, to securely send rescue teams additional information -- such as on-the-fly map drawings showing where a triage area has been set up in a crisis -- so that other mobile emergency workers know exactly where to go.

The Advanced Emergency Geographical Information Systems (AEGIS) at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, Calif. is a Web-based hospital situational awareness system that monitors and maps the location and status of emergency resources, including area hospitals, ambulances, and rescue helicopters.


Loma Linda University Medical Center Emergency Mapping System

Loma Linda University Medical Center Emergency Mapping System
(click for image gallery)

Currently, Loma Linda University Medical Center's AEGIS system is being used for emergency medical response in a vast geographic region of Southern California covering 25% of the state. The next phases of the system's development will provide functionality for all public safety organizations -- including police and fire departments, and even the U.S. military -- in multiple counties to manage all sorts of disasters.

The rollout by Loma Linda University Medical Center has been several years in the making with the help of funding from a U.S. Department of Defense telemedicine grant and technology from GIS vendor ESRI. The AEGIS deployment is also serving as a model disaster-response management system not only for other communities in the United States, but also for the U.S. military, said Dr. Steve Corbett, chief medical informatics officer of Loma Linda University Adventists Health Sciences Center.

Loma Linda University Medical Center includes a trauma center and pediatric hospital that handles about 3,000 ambulance runs in the region each month, said Corbett. Currently, LLUMC is the only level-one trauma center serving several counties in southern California, including Inyo, Mono, Riverside, and San Bernardino County, where LLUMC is located.

Loma Linda University Medical Center uses AEGIS for emergency response dispatch, transport, and destination decisions. For instance, if a freeway accident involves multiple victims, emergency managers can view real-time data on a Web-based map to see which ambulances or helicopters are in the area, and click onto icons of area hospitals to see if they're accepting casualties or if they're currently overloaded with patients.

The system collects data from a variety of sources, including the state highway patrol, highway video cameras, and road sensors that can update emergency managers about how fast traffic is moving on a road, all information that can help responders make better decisions about where and how to route victims, said Corbett.

"We created this as a medical emergency management system, but it's turning into a disaster management system that's interactive and also being rolled out for use by EMS, police, fire, public health officials," said Corbett. "The true potential is disaster management for all public safety," he said. "It's built to fit anywhere," he said.

New functionality will allow secure role-based interaction by authorized mobile users in the field. "Someone at the scene could draw [on the system's map] a staging area for ambulances -- here's the disaster area where we have more victims for triage," he said. In addition, response workers "from miles away could also interact by sending text messages via the map" to provide context of the local situation, he said.

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