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Get details on how the Randolph County Ambulance’s office:
- accomplished their goals
- protected lives
- saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by partnering with UScellular for wireless solutions.
During the height of the pandemic, paramedics and EMTs faced challenges above and beyond caring for and transporting patients to the hospital. They had to take extra care of themselves too. The job got harder, and many quit the profession for fear of catching COVID and exposing their families.
“When COVID first started, everybody locked down tight and that included ambulance calls. It seemed like if we got a call, it was COVID-related, but nobody else went to the hospital,” said Clay Joiner, Randolph County Ambulance District superintendent. “Where were all the sick people with COVID? They were in the hospital. So, if you had a belly ache, you weren’t going to go to the hospital because people were scared.”
Overcoming Connectivity Challenges
As time passed, and as vaccines became available, those who put off their ailments all of a sudden were facing emergencies. “Almost overnight, everybody’s calling for ambulances,” Joiner said.
At the same time, Joiner’s hardworking crew faced challenges that were slowing their ability to communicate with the hospital, get patient signatures, file reports and submit insurance claims that were tied to reimbursement. They needed to upgrade their technology to keep up with a new world while continuing to save lives.
So, Joiner turned to longtime partner UScellular® for solutions that would improve efficiency and save money while putting the community first. “Clay is a visionary,” said Jacob Neeley, UScellular Public Sector Account Manager, “meaning, he knows what it’s been like, where it’s at now and what it could look like at its best. He’s got a good eye and his experience allows him to understand many levels of the operation.”
Automating Billing Nets Bigger Reimbursements
Joiner, who has been with the ambulance district for 41 years – 27 as superintendent, knew he faced many challenges, starting with manual reports and billing. Previously, his team would handwrite reports or enter them on a computer, return to the office, print them out and give them to staff who would have to enter the reports again into a billing system.
UScellular recommended installing Cradlepoint routers in each of Randolph County’s six ambulances to connect their Panasonic Toughbooks via the UScellular network. “Our dispatch, patient care, records and billing are all tied together. By having the Cradlepoint routers, as soon as a medic finished their patient report, it immediately went to billing and could be filed usually by the next day,” Joiner said.
In addition, automated billing eliminates delays, so they no longer miss out on reimbursements. “It’s helped us financially to get our bills out, especially to the insurance companies. We definitely increased the amount of money received by at least $50,000-$100,000 annually.”
Automated reports eliminated delays in billing too. The ambulance district avoids Medicare penalties for late filings, now getting an additional 5%-10% of bills paid.
The Toughest Devices in the Field
Another challenge was choosing the right mobile devices for the medics to use for transmitting patient data and getting signatures. UScellular helped Randolph County choose Panasonic Toughbooks to take vitals and enter them into the patient care report.
“Toughbooks are made exactly for why they’re made,” Joiner said. “They get left on the back bumper of the ambulance and fall off. They get dropped down the steps at the patient’s house, whatever it might be, they survive. We hardly ever have to repair a Toughbook because it just does what it’s supposed to do.”
Finding the Fastest Route to an Emergency
When responding to an emergency, the ambulance crew and Dispatch counts on UScellular partner MiFleet to improve efficiency. “We know where the ambulance is at all times. By tracking their progress, we can see if they make a left turn instead of a right turn and call and say ‘Hey, you need to back up and turn around,’” Joiner said.
The fleet management product also eliminates downtime by helping the staff recognize routing patterns and create better solutions. Joiner says he can track the ambulance location and see how much time is spent between patients and make the crews more productive. They have also just installed MiFleet’s Surfsight dash cameras in each ambulance. “It offers us protection in the case of an accident, and it also allows us to communicate with the crews through the cameras,” he said.
In-ambulance technology powered by the UScellular wireless network
Price-Protected Government Business Plans
Joiner credits the government business plans for saving them as much as $2,000 per month. “There was a time when to have the number of phones that we have now and the number of SIM cards and Cradlepoints and other things would have just been cost prohibitive. But UScellular has always really worked for us so we got the very best business deal all the time and Jacob’s been really big on that,” Joiner said.
“If we were doing today what we’re doing 10 years ago, I think it probably would have cost us at least 500% to 1,000% more. The UScellular government plan is saving us at least $1,000 to $2,000 a month compared to what it would have a few years ago.”
Neeley added that while cost has decreased, the amount of data has increased significantly. In addition, all charges appear on a single bill, and UScellular has protected its rate through 2023.
The UScellular Local Difference
Joiner credits his UScellular partner Jacob Neeley for the program’s success. “Jacob has really been Jacob on the spot here for us. If we needed something he’s driven up here, right away to help us,” he said.
“I think the community is in great hands with Clay,” Neeley said. “He embraces technology and cares about the experience of his staff. This allows him to increase the efficiency of his technicians, EMTs and paramedics. He knows what will best serve the community.”
The Best Local Network for Saving Lives
Like many rural locations across the country, it’s not always easy to get a cell signal in northeast Missouri. But Joiner’s crew always connects with UScellular. “When we first went to this program, we literally took a computer out in an ambulance and drove all over the county to see who we could connect, and UScellular really was the best connection,” he said.
That’s important when transporting a patent. Joiner’s crew uses a router with UScellular critical connectivity to transmit vitals to the hospital where a physician reviews it and provides instruction. “As far as knowing immediately where to take them, what medications to give, what to do—that’s just priceless.”
He added that body cam evidence reduces costly trials that don’t necessarily need to happen—saving community funding.
Needs for the Future
In addition to smart phones, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office uses two Arlo wireless cameras connected through UScellular for security monitoring in areas with limited or no Wi-Fi access. And he may look to expand.
“Right now, we’re evaluating this project. It’s working great for us, so we’ll see what the future holds,” he said. Possible tools may include push-to-talk two-way communication, and Land Mobile Radio (LMR) interoperability to integrate smartphones with existing radio systems. “That will let you transmit and receive traffic that you normally would just hear if you had an issued radio either in your car, on your person.”
He’s also now working with his UScellular local sales rep Jacob Neeley to add data priority and preemption for public safety.
“I felt his passionate excitement when I talked to Sheriff Colston about these solutions,” said Neeley. “The reality is, with Visual Labs and UScellular, you have a GPS and body camera on the officer versus being left in the car. It’s a safer product and I think the Sheriff is being really creative in implementing this solution.”
The UScellular Difference
The county’s relationship with UScellular predates Colston’s 16 years at the sheriff’s office, but he’s happy with the collaboration. “It’s been great to partner with UScellular. For the longest time, UScellular was the only provider that had coverage in our area—for our entire county. And we’ve had no issues. When we had questions about products, they’ve been very informative.”
A glimpse inside a Randolph County ambulance
There are other options now, “but with the coverage and our long-standing relationship with UScellular, we opted to stay with them during this project,” he said. “I like UScellular’s customer service first of all. If I make a phone call, I’m going to get a phone call back or somebody is going to answer when I call. I deal with many companies where that’s not the case, so I appreciate that very much. Devices are reliable, but I know if we have issues, we’re going to make a call and we’re going to get those issues resolved.”
Colston is pleased with his new tools and connectivity and would recommend them to other public safety departments. “We have so many things that distract us from what we do. I think the simplification of combining several tools into one device helps us to concentrate on the job at hand. The device is always there and we’re able to utilize it for many different things,” he said.
“UScellular is great to work with.”