EMS is on the cusp of a revolution. Are you ready for communication technologies that will turn the back of your ambulance into a remote emergency room? The newest generation of EMS practitioners will soon hold high-definition two-way video dialogues with physicians and specialists. This real-time relay of information will allow hospitals to see what is coming in from the field ahead of time. At this year’s EMS World Expo Opening Keynote, FirstNet President TJ Kennedy will share how technology and connectivity will bring about the “Internet of Lifesaving Things,” making a monumental difference in the field and improving the continuum of care.
I recently sat down with TJ to discuss the progress of FirstNet and changes on the horizon.
EMS: For readers not familiar with FirstNet, can you give us a brief description of the project?
TJ: FirstNet is a product of public safety’s advocacy efforts. The entire community—including EMS—pushed for the creation of a nationwide public safety broadband network to modernize communications and address challenges with interoperability. Today we are well on our way to realizing that network. FirstNet is developing an LTE network for first responders with input from public safety agencies across the country. Once operational, FirstNet’s nationwide public safety broadband network will enable first responders to send and receive text, voice, video, images, location information and other data in real time to help increase situational awareness and operational capability in the field.
EMS: As technology in healthcare advances, what challenges exist that could prevent EMS from taking full advantage of these changes and how will FirstNet resolve those challenges?
TJ: EMS does not have access to encrypted, prioritized and preemptible networks. FirstNet is going to provide a new set of tools to empower EMS. We will have priority and preemption built into the FirstNet network and FirstNet will deliver a reliable network for all EMS entities. We will also have an encrypted network that will support a secure network to serve EMS. Once the network is operational, it will be important for responders to incorporate the nationwide public safety broadband network into their operating procedures. They will need to be able to leverage prioritized public safety LTE broadband services and technology in the field.
EMS: What key themes will you address during your keynote presentation at EMS World Expo?
TJ: I believe that public safety broadband is going to revolutionize emergency communications and bring about the “Internet of Lifesaving Things.” Imagine if paramedics could send a drone ahead of their arrival to an incident to gauge the severity and even determine if additional EMS resources will be necessary. As they arrive, they use connected tools to take the vitals of an injured individual and send the data to the nearest hospital in real time before and during EMS transport. In addition, a “smart” ambulance has already calculated the fastest route to the closest hospital with the needed specialty care and the responders are able to hold a two-way video dialogue with doctors and emergency room staff who are standing by. The Internet of Lifesaving Things is expected to provide new ways to identify medical issues and save precious time when it counts. Another example of this is allowing key patient information to be shared between EMS and the hospital, which can improve the continuum of care and patient outcomes.
EMS: This year is the 50th anniversary of the seminal National Academy of Sciences White Paper, which gave birth to the EMS system we have in place today. EMS has changed dramatically during those five decades, what do you think the next 50 years have in store?
TJ: As the nation’s overall public safety communications systems move to IP-based systems, we’ll begin to reap the benefits of end-to-end next-generation communications. Information will flow from PSAPs to providers in the field and to the hospital, creating a 360-degree view of calls and incidents. This will improve situational awareness, delivery of care, efficiency of response and the safety of those on the front lines. While FirstNet is just one critical part of a complete next-gen public safety communications system—specifically, the pipeline that allows information to move quickly to and from first responders in the field—I like to think FirstNet is a building block for other public safety initiatives. I look forward to seeing the innovation that is enabled by FirstNet over the next five decades—new technologies that haven’t even been imagined yet.
EMS World Expo is scheduled for October 3–7 in New Orleans, LA. Register today at EMSWorldExpo.com.