Public-Safety Apps Help Frontline Workers Respond to COVID-19 Pandemic
Tuesday, April 14, 2020 | Comments
Numerous mission-critical applications are helping contribute to the response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Both Project 25 (P25) and LTE devices are hosting the public-safety apps.

The Montgomery County Hospital District (MCHD) in Texas is using L3Harris radios with P25 and LTE access to remotely assess COVID-19 patients. MCHD created a telehealth solution for the XL-200P dual-mode P25/LTE radios and iPads that use telehealth software called Pulsara. Emergency responders can assess patients, transmit and review electrocardiograms (EKGs) and pulse/oxygen readings, and triage without having to transport patients.

The hospital district covers 1,100 square miles, just north of Houston, said Justin Evans, MCHD radio systems manager. The district uses L3Harris P25 Phase 2 infrastructure and recently deployed the LTE module in its XL-200P radios with Verizon service. The portable has built-in Wi-Fi, so a medic outside a truck can enable the hot spot, and medical data can be transmitted to the hospital.

About 30 medic units are using the upgraded radios. "The deployment of our new XL-200 radios with Verizon LTE gives our paramedics a communications hub as soon as they make patient contact," Evans said. "This gives us the ability to connect all of our patient care devices to the wireless access point located in the radio."

The Pulsara app can do a full patient assessment with real-time data, said James Campbell, MCHD chief of EMS. “The connectivity allows for MCHD physicians to do a telehealth patient assessment with real-time data through the Pulsara mobile application," he said.

Baystate Health in Massachusetts launched a new COVID-19 screening tool for its partnered EMS organizations in early February. EMS professionals used the screening tool, which implemented General Devices’ e-Bridge application on the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) network, to determine if a patient was high-risk for COVID-19.

As Baystate Health began to accept more COVID-19 patients via the 9-1-1 system, the organizations realized the screening tool was helpful, but within several weeks, the travel questions became irrelevant, and the focus shifted to real-time group communications to limit exposure. To address their needs, General Devices quickly deployed a COVID-19 Work-Flow Module mirroring the General Medical Module already used at Baystate Medical Center.

Officials pushed this information to EMS partners who began communicating COVID-19 alerts the following day. In the two weeks since go-live, health officials have received about 200 COVID-19 alerts from its EMS partners via e-Bridge. These alerts allowed Baystate Medical Center Emergency Department (ED) to implement a new screening process. Officials can quickly send an EMS and ED ambulance communications/triage center liaison to the ambulance bay to evaluate a potential/confirmed COVID-19 patient and decrease the amount of exposure to the EMS and ED staff during patient handover.

“The communications we are able to have with our EMS partners is invaluable and drastically decreases confusion and duplicate work,” said Erin Markt, senior EMS and prehospital coordinator. “We use this COVID-19 module not only for our incoming 9-1-1 patients but also our interfacility transport cases. Our ICUs and transfer center can communicate with the EMS team, give specific directions, ensure appropriate PPE (personal protection equipment) and assign a room before EMS arrives to the hospital.”

AtlantiCare EMS in New Jersey is also using the GD e-Bridge telehealth video and screening module through the FirstNet network as part of its COVID-19 response and management. The app has also been deployed statewide in Michigan.

Brad Stoddard, director of the Office of Michigan’s Public Safety Communications System (MPSCS), a statewide P25 network, asked MPSCS users to consider using push-to-talk (PTT) over LTE for COVID-19 response communications and to become familiar with the web-based applications used to manage talkgroups.

Stoddard said PTT applications on cellular devices, while not mission-critical, can be an extremely useful way for responders to communicate, offering virtually instant group communications. Most Michigan public-safety agencies use Verizon, AT&T or FirstNet/AT&T, and all three carriers provide a PTT service. He also said Motorola Solutions’ WAVE PTT application could also be a useful way for responders, volunteers and others to communicate.

PTT over broadband provider ESChat confirmed it is providing PTT communications for law enforcement and EMS crews across multiple states including Washington, New York, New Jersey and the District of Columbia. The expanded service is a result of the COVID-19 emergency and incremental to the standard level of PTT communication service that ESChat provides throughout the year to public-safety agencies.

“ESChat is a Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA)-approved and FirstNet Certified product available for $4.57 per user per month via our General Services Administration (GSA) contract,” said ESChat President/CEO Josh Lober. “We also offer public-safety users a free 60-day trial that includes up to 50 users and a JPS radio over IP (RoIP) gateway for basic LMR interoperability.”

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