Disasters such as the school bus accident in Wautoma in March 2006, or the explosion at the Falk Corporation in Milwaukee in December 2006, demonstrated the need for a method to track patients during a multiple victim incident (i.e., an incident in which five or more patients being transported to one or more hospitals).
During incidents such as these, EMS historically transported victims to various hospitals with no system in place to track where these patients have been sent. In such cases, it could take several hours before family members would be able identify the facility to which their loved one has been transported.
During and after these incidents, public safety officials along with hospitals are usually deluged with telephone calls from families, employers, schools and other agencies looking for patient lists and patient information. This puts a tremendous strain on public safety officials and hospital staff during an already stressful and busy time. Significant time can be lost and critical resources can be diverted in an effort to develop a comprehensive list of these patients, their locations and the general impression of their condition.
In 2008, the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, Hospital Emergency Preparedness Program, in collaboration with other emergency response partners, established and implemented a statewide web-based Patient Tracking System to mitigate the difficulties surrounding the tracking of patients during a multiple victim incident.
Today, EMS ambulance personnel are required to apply a StatBand EMS Triage Tag to the victim in the field and to designate a triage color for the patient, following the SALT (Sort, Assess, Life-Saving Interventions, Treatment and/or Transport) triage protocol. Green indicates that the patient is ambulatory; yellow indicates that treatment for the patient can be delayed until others more serious are treated; red indicates that the victim needs immediate treatment; grey indicates that the patient has illness or injuries incompatible with survival; black indicates that the victim has died. The StatBand EMS Triage Tag contains a permanent bar code and several peelable bar codes that are used as the unique patient identifier. The peelable bar codes can be used to track the personal belongings of the patient, as well.
Applying Improved Emergency Response
Step 1: Each and every victim at the scene of an emergency is identified with a pre-barcoded StatBand Triage Tag. The tags are sequentially numbered and uniquely barcoded to distinguish each individual, their belongings, forms, evidence, lab specimens, etc.
How it helps emergency triage responders:
- Enables immediate medical assessment and casualty entry
- Offers information retrieval on hospital status
- Providers control over hospital dispatch
Step 2: Upon arrival at an incident scene and once admitted to a particular hospital, the pre-barcoded StatBand Triage Tags are scanned and victim information is entered using a wireless personal digital assistant (PDA).
How it helps hospitals:
- Allows for prompt patient admission
- Tracks and prepares for incoming medical situations and casualties
Sept 3: Each victim's information and status is downloaded into a secured central database accessible over the Internet.
How it helps the emergency information center:
- Improve response to public inquiries
- Communicates vital information to the public
Victim information is tracked by EMS and responder command, hospitals and emergency operation in order to make decisions that will best utilize the system's resources.
How it helps the emergency operations center:
- Helps monitor and track all medical issues and casualties
- Manages proper distribution of resources.