Reliable & Redundant Connectivity Provide Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services with Faster Communications
First responders are continually trying to find ways to respond to emergencies more effectively. In today’s mobile environment, reliable network connectivity and redundancy allows first responders to communicate more reliably and improve response times.
Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services (IEMS) deployed Cradlepoint NetCloud Service for mobile for an improved network connection and added redundancy, even in demanding conditions. The service includes routing, a WiFi access point, GPS and telematics integration, WiFi-as-WAN, and cloud configuration and troubleshooting, all delivered via an in-vehicle LTE router with 24x7 support and a limited lifetime warranty.
Device deployment spans throughout 40 ambulances and 10 command and support vehicles and will continue as additional vehicles are brought online.
IEMS provides 911 emergency response with high-quality care for the residents and visitors of Marion County, Indiana, serving 261 square miles of primary response area. IEMS is the largest provider of emergency pre-hospital medical care in Indiana and will respond to more than 120,000 911 calls this year. IEMS employs more than 300 EMT and paramedic providers and 50 support employees, and has 31 ALS on duty ambulances.
In the logistics section, there are three personnel who handle the support for network hardware, network systems, and computer applications and programs.
IEMS needed improved reliability in cellular connectivity for its in-vehicle Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs), mobile devices, and electronic patient care reporting (ePCR) system. The MDT provides messaging and reporting functions and allows IEMS to communicate the public safety answering point (PSAP) — the call center responsible for answering emergency calls for police, firefighters, and ambulance services. MDTs are also used to communicate with other first responders.
Another prime concern for IEMS was to get redundancy and connectivity based on multiple cellular networks for the ePCR computers.
“Redundancy and connectivity on our ePCR system is in many ways the lifeblood for both the patient and us,” said Kevin Gona, chief of logistics for IEMS.
With robust connectivity, IEMS can use the ePCR system to enter critical patient information in a medical record from a portable ePCR computer and allow the receiving hospital to quickly receive that information. This helps the hospital prepare for care once the EMS crew and the patient arrive at the receiving hospital.
To achieve improved and redundant connectivity, IEMS leveraged Cradlepoint NetCloud Service for mobile in its 60-plus vehicle fleet. IEMS is using NetCloud’s cloud management capabilities for full visibility and management of all devices from a single location, no matter where the vehicles may be. The service includes extensive cloud functionality and a purpose-built in-vehicle router.
With the Cradlepoint solution, IEMS has high-speed, clear, and highly reliable communications through their MDTs and ePCR systems to achieve rapid responses and save valuable time.
RELIABLE CONNECTIVITY IN A MOBILE ENVIRONMENT
Cradlepoint proved more reliable then the improvised wireless routers IEMS had been initially using.
“There’s a reason people build cellular mobile routers; that became obvious fairly quickly,” said Gona.
IEMS was experiencing constant problem reports from EMTs and paramedics about connection issues, completely losing connectivity, or slow connection speeds.
"As the Cradlepoints were deployed and connected to the MDTs, the connectivity issues have gone to zero,” said Gona.
IEMS is also beginning to see its ePCR communication improving, as well as overall continuous improvement in connectivity as deployments increase. IEMS transports to 26 different hospitals in Marion County that might receive documentation through the ePCR system. With a dependable cellular connection, as paramedics enter data on a patient, that data can be available with near real-time delivery to the facility awaiting a patient.
“A huge driving force for us with the Cradlepoint is reliable connectivity so those software applications on the MDT and ePCR work consistently,” said Gona.
REDUNDANCY FOR ALWAYS-ON CELLULAR CONNECTIONS
IEMS created redundancy with the Cradlepoint coupled with a cell modem embedded in the ePCR computer. While the in-vehicle MDTs are wired directly to the Cradlepoint, the ePCR is a portable device. Both devices leverage the advantages of an externally mounted antenna on top of the ambulance. The Cradlepoint routers’ ability to connect to a remote external antenna allows IEMS to get better service to the Cradlepoint by using the larger ground plane of the vehicle roof, being external to the metal body of the vehicle, and being higher off the ground.
Additionally, the Cradlepoint routers can be mounted in the relatively protected passenger compartment of the vehicle. This simplifies the maintenance of the Cradlepoint and reduces environmental stresses on the device.
The ePCR devices in the ambulance can be used 100s of yards or more from the vehicle, first staying on the Cradlepoint LAN network for the best connectivity, then if the signal is lost the embedded cell modem will pick up the connection.
CLOUD MANAGEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE & COMPLETE VISIBILITY
With Cradlepoint’s cloud management service, NetCloud Manager, IEMS can immediately check and see whether a problem on a device is a connectivity or hardware issue.
The service also allows IEMS to communicate with the ePCR system in a way it couldn’t do in the past. For example, a Cradlepoint router allows IEMS to talk to the ePCRs that may have an embedded cell card connection issue to determine whether there is an issue with the embedded device or the redundant carrier. In the past, IEMS would have to physically bring it in to determine the problem. Now, if a device is near a Cradlepoint, it can connect to it and IEMS can diagnose the problem.
IEMS was able to pay for the Cradlepoint’s data service by simply swapping out a cellular modem in the ambulance MDT with the Cradlepoint. This resulted in no net cost in the data service in terms of the change. By reallocating the money spent on the cellular modem, the Cradlepoint solution service cost is cost-neutral for IEMS, so not only did it not need to spend more money, but it accrued all the benefits that come with Cradlepoint solutions, such as NetCloud Manager and customer support.
“The Cradlepoint brings improved coverage service to the MDT and cost savings,” said Gona.
NetCloud Service also helps save money and time by allowing IEMS to manage the entire fleet en masse. Previously, IEMS would have to physically get to a device or physically bring in an ambulance, absorbing time and money and reducing the availability of 911 ambulances.
“Ambulances are a critical and in-demand resource. Decreasing the time spent physically assessing the network and devices has saved money and manhours while also improving in-service availability,” said Gona.
CONNECTIVITY AT HEADQUARTERS & PUBLIC EVENTS
IEMS also has Cradlepoint solutions at headquarters as the failsafe network for the building in case the fiber lines are cut. Cradlepoint keeps IEMS connected and communication devices active as emergencies arise.
"With NetCloud Service, and the ability for ePCRs to redundantly connect to other devices, ambulance downtime caused by IT issues has been reduced 90 percent," said Gona.
The Cradlepoint is also used at events and public gatherings. IEMS provides EMS coverage for many special events, including Indiana Pacers games and the Indianapolis 500.
PREPARED TO SCALE
Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Service and fit-for-purpose hardware have set up IEMS to grow their network as technology advancements roll out.
IEMS will be moving to the FirstNet network once the FirstNet core and Band 14 are up.
“Data congestion kills the connection, which is why we’re really counting on FirstNet to allow us to use our technology to its fullest to help us in emergency situations,” said Gona.