LifeNet has implemented changes related to Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD).  Most people calling 9-1-1 are unlikely to notice the changes that are designed to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19, and the community should not be alarmed when they hear something different over the scanner.

“Whenever a person calls 9-1-1 for a medical emergency, LifeNet’s trained dispatchers use a series of protocol questions through a software called ProQA.  That software uses a person’s chief complaint and their answers to questions that follow to guide dispatchers in providing appropriate pre-hospital care on the phone, while ensuring they dispatch medical crews in the right mode of response,” said Ryan Hamilton, Communications Center Manager for LifeNet in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

LifeNet has enhanced one part of that process.

“In our dispatch centers, we are now using a protocol that helps us determine if there is a risk of coronavirus exposure.  We ask callers questions related to having symptoms like a fever.  This type of protocol is implemented whenever there is communitywide spread of an illness.  If dispatchers believe a patient could have COVID-19, they will alert our EMTs, paramedics, and other first responders to wear proper protective gear,” Hamilton added.

LifeNet has implemented this change using both ProQA Protocol Card 36 (“Card 36”) and the Emerging Infectious Diseases Surveillance (EIDS) tool.

Card 36 is part of the ProQA software and is triggered on certain call types to help screen patients showing specific symptoms related to COVID-19 further to ensure first responders are notified before arrival that the patient could be a COVID-19 patient.

EIDS is a tool used on all calls where the caller’s chief complaint does not trigger Card 36.

“For example, a person may call 9-1-1 because they fell and injured their leg. This chief complaint would not trigger Card 36 because a leg injury is not a symptom associated with COVID-19.  Our emergency medical dispatchers will then use the EIDS tool, along with protocol questions for a fall, to screen and make sure the fall wasn’t also related to breathing problems that could be related to COVID-19,” Hamilton said.

In either instance, if there is a chance that a caller’s symptoms could be COVID-19 related, then first responders are told it’s a “Card 36” over the scanner.

“Just because the public may hear ‘Card 36’ over the scanner doesn’t mean the patient has COVID-19.  important for the public to understand. Prior to using this new protocol, many of the calls we went on were dispatched as ‘sick person’ calls,” Hamilton said. “Out of precaution, we now treat a lot of those ‘sick person’ calls as though the person could be experiencing COVID-19. People aren’t alarmed when we go on a ‘sick person’ call, and they should not be alarmed when they hear ‘Card 36’ on the scanner, either.”

For other questions the public has about changes LifeNet is making during COVID-19, click here.