“You’re giving them the best
picture possible,” he says. “There’s
nothing like them seeing it with
their own eyes.”
The N.J. EMS Task Force plan-
ner also used his iPad to log the
position of equipment respond-
ing to a recent call at a port, where
the initial report was that upwards
of 50 stowaways were in a con-
tainer aboard a ship. Within a
short period of time on the scene,
he was able to locate each ambu-
lance that responded and report
back to the EOC.
Ambulances organized into strike teams at the Northern New Jersey
EMS regional staging area. The position of each team was monitored
using the Fleeteyes app for iPad.
In addition, the use of Drop-box, a common cloud storage application,
enables Cortacans to distribute response
plans for ports, train lines and other potential disaster sites to members of the Task
Force in an instant, so they can also access
the plans via their mobile devices.
Page believes pricing and durability of tablets may be one factor holding up more widespread adaptation
of the tools in field EMS today. “Once
prices decline and they get more rugged, laptops used today will fade
away,” he says. In fact, many of the
largest manufacturers of rugged laptops have already released tablet versions such as Panasonic’s Toughbook
and Gamma Tech’s Durabook.
For more information about cloud security,
please see “Secure in the Cloud: The new
public vs. private debate is in data security”
in the December issue of JEMS or online at
In many areas, EMS agencies have transitioned into doing electronic patient care
reports on tablets, rather than paper or laptops used in the past. And, using a tablet
device, EMS folks in the field can now gain
instant access to all kinds of digital information, like weather forecasts, TV news and
even direct video feeds from news helicopters—things only achievable via landline or
satellite feeds five years ago.
Tablets are being used to transmit real-time images and video of patients to doctors
in hospitals who can make advanced preparations on care decisions before the patient
arrives in the emergency department.
There are other factors involved with the
rapid adaption of tablets in EMS, too. Some
of that can be attributed to the changing
demographics of the employee base.
Younger employees tend to come into
the EMS field already adapted to new tech-
nologies, rather than having to adapt to
new ways of doing things. Moreover,
they’re more likely to have already made
the transition to smartphones—phones that
allow access to the Internet and the use of
applications. All of this makes the incorpo-
ration of tablets into field EMS work that
“Imagine, in an ambulance, you step
in, there’s an iPad on the wall [that] is
accumulating information via Blue-
tooth and Wi-Fi,” Page says. “Then imagine
being able to hit a button to Skype over to the
hospital and talk directly to the doctor.”
The idea isn’t so far off.
As Evans notes, organizations can buy
three tablets for the cost of one durable laptop. So they’re already economical. Likewise,
proven tough cases are already on the market to protect the sometimes delicate tablets,
transforming them into even more powerful devices that are dirt, dust and waterproof.
“These [devices] can do any number of
things,” says Evans. “It really opens up the
whole world of diagnostics in emergency
services and gets it down into a small hand-
“Fact is, the future of tablets in EMS is lim-
ited only by the imagination of those using
them,” says Cortacans.
“All you need is someone with a little
innovation and creativity, and they’ll find
many ways to use them,” Cortacans says.
“Once you show it to someone, not only are
they going to be shown the capabilities, but in
their minds they can come up with 10 other
reasons to use them.”
1. American Red Cross. (Aug. 31, 2012). More Americans using mobile apps in emergencies. In
American Red Cross. Retrieved Nov. 7, 2012, from
Richard Huff, NREMT-B, is a network television
communications executive, an award-winning journalist,
author and former chief of the Atlantic Highlands (N.J.)
First Aid and Safety Squad. Huff can be reached at