Smartphone apps could be life-saving link for first responders

By Dave Benton |

Published 11/13 2013 12:49PM

Updated 11/13 2013 10:54PM

CHAMPAIGN -- When an ambulance responds to a 911 call, it's loaded with medicine, bandages and all sorts of equipment. But, nowadays, it includes smart phones and tablets.

The things we use to send a text or do the news, can help paramedics save your life. WCIA-3's Dave Benton finds out how these everyday items make for a Smart11.

Mary Ellen Back is peddling for her life, literally. In rehab, three days a week, she's feeling better and more like herself. She was anything but herself four months ago. After not feeling well, turns out Bach was having a heart attack.

"I'm 57 years old. I'm healthy. I just went to the doctor. I couldn't be having a heart attack."

David Ward was one of the Pro Ambulance paramedics who answered the 911 call. In this demonstration, he and his colleagues are showing us how they're using everyday technology.

For Bach, it started with an EKG. The readout confirmed she had a blockage on the right side of her heart. So, to save time, Ward used an iPad to take a picture of the readout and email it to the emergency room.

Based on what doctors saw, they prepared to remove the blockage. When Bach arrived at Presence, she went right into treatment.

"We were at one hour, just a shade over one hour from the time of the event to the time the patient was in the cath lab."

That saved 20-minutes because doctors didn't have to do the same test in the E.R. Ward says iPads take better pictures and are more reliable than the mobile fax they used two years ago.

"I think this is just the start of where we might go from here."

Paramedics at Arrow Ambulance agree.

"We could just have that in the palm of our hand."

Here they're using iPhones as reference guides. No longer do they have to look up procedures in a book. It's all at their fingertips.

"Generally, it's quicker and generally speaking, you're going to be able to gain more information from your smart phone."

Paramedics are also using various apps to double-check drug interactions or chemical exposures. This app helps with measuring out the right amount of medicine for a child.

"Here's a pediatric trauma algorithm."

While all this technology helps, it still boils down to a paramedic's training and skill.

"What we don't want is providers dependent on technology. But, we want to use it to make sure we're taking better care of people."

For Mary Ellen Bach, training, skill and a little everyday technology were the perfect mix.

"My doctor said, if I had went home and laid down, I would've been dead."

Bach is exercising more and eating better. She's even taking a second look at the stuff she once said was a waste of time. She's never wanted a smartphone or tablet and doesn't even own an iPad.

"No, I don't, but it's on my list!"

Even Bach now says, this everyday gadget has its moments. Paramedics stress they have rules and limits on using tablets and smartphones. Patient privacy remains a priority. By the way, they can be cheaper to use. 
There’s an app for just about anything and that’s true for medicine and healthcare. The information they provide has made it possible for smartphones and tablets to become important tools for paramedics.

The apps offer various information covering a wide variety of issues. The topics can include medicine dosing and treatment guidelines to hazmat response.

There are many to choose from. Here’s a brief look at five apps area EMS personnel use:


This app is designed to help calculate proper dosage and helps with correct drip rates for IV medication.


This app aims to provide assessment information along with information about medicines and dosage. It also includes a hazmat reference guide.


This app is designed to offer drug information for both adult and pediatric patients.

EMS ACLS Field Guide

This app aims to be a reference guide covering a variety of topics from airway management to poisons.

Cardinal Glennon EMS

This app is designed to be a reference guide focusing on the treatment of children.

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