Faster Care, Lower Costs, Better Results: How Houston’s ETHAN Project is Transforming Emergency Medicine With Toughbook Power

As the first responders on the scene, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics traditionally conduct a preliminary evaluation of a patient before transporting them via an ambulance to a nearby emergency room. Doing this transport for each and every emergency call is costly and strains the limited supply of emergency medical resources. While many of these calls do require immediate medical attention at a local hospital, some number of them could be addressed with a non-emergency healthcare provider – however, making that call requires the insight of a medical professional. 

As the fourth largest city in the United States, Houston, Texas fields more than 800,000 911 calls each year – and the Houston Fire Department, in collaboration with the Houston Department of Health and Human Services, wondered if they could use mobile technology to get a physician’s opinion of just how critical a patient’s needs are during the preliminary exam, and not after a possibly unneeded emergency ambulance ride.

Named “The ETHAN (Emergency TeleHealth and Navigation) Project,”  the city of Houston equipped its first responders with Panasonic Toughpad G1 rugged tablets, which let them use a wireless LTE network to connect physicians at local hospitals with fire fighters and EMTs on the scene of an emergency call. By reviewing the patient’s vital signs remotely and interacting with them via a video conference.

Since the initiative kicked off, the ETHAN Project has successfully avoided costly ambulance and ER trips in 80 percent of the cases in which the technology was used, freeing up resources for those who did need emergency medical attention. And this success has not gone unnoticed – earlier this year, The ETHAN Project was awarded the GCN digIT Award for mobile technology.

Take a look at the video below get a firsthand look at The ETHAN Project in action, and for more information, check out our case study on why the Toughpad G1 was the right choice for the job.