January 22, 2015
By Anthony Favreau
I had a conversation with a fire chief about the Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS) and how it relates to responder safety, public safety, and response times. It can be hard to get the message across to responders who don’t understand MPDS Protocols or how they are a benefit to the agencies they serve. Typically, they believe that asking “all of those questions” slows response and that the answers don’t really matter.
I spent some time explaining the system to the fire chief in a manner that I believed would help clarify what the protocols do for responders. First and foremost is the safety aspect. Protocols have built-in questions that help with both responder safety and public safety. There are questions as well as Pre-Arrival Instructions (PAIs) so that the caller can assist with safety-related matters on scene.
I asked the fire chief, “How quick do we need to get there?” to get him thinking about that question.
The biggest threat to responder safety and public safety is responding with lights-and-siren; the protocol system helps to make better decisions by allowing the user to define which calls actually need a lights-and-siren response.
For example, if your mother is having a heart attack, it may indicate lights-and-siren as the appropriate response. If a patient has had back pain for a week and now needs to go to the hospital, with no priority symptoms, then it may be safer for both the responder and the patient to respond to the call without the use of lights-and-siren.
Every protocol has safety questions to evaluate the presence or absence of priority symptoms. In the second example, the calltaker will ask the safety question regarding whether the patient with back pain is completely alert. If the answer is “no,” protocol will default to a higher acuity response.
Responders and chiefs must learn to view the protocol process as a mathematical equation; a patient’s problem, solved correctly and most efficiently, results from asking the right questions and coding the right response.
Ask them: Do you want to be the responder who gets into an accident that injures a co-worker, friend, or member of the public because responders were using lights and sirens when not needed? We have the formula for prevention—the protocol system—and it’s our job to educate the decision-makers about how to use it!
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