New Muscatine County Communications software helps dispatch first responders faster

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MUSCATINE, Iowa (KWQC) - New software at Muscatine County Joint Communications Center is helping dispatchers get emergency responders out the door fast, while keeping them informed with the most updated and accurate information from callers.

Muscatine County Joint Communications Center introduced a new system called the Medical Priority Dispatch System to help dispatchers assess emergency calls faster and more accurately.

Dispatchers have traditionally had to relay most information over the radio to responders, but with the new Medical Priority Dispatch System, it is automatically sent to computers in the responding vehicles.

"We initially put in an address and phone number and basically a brief synopsis of what's going on, whether it be difficulty breathing, chest pain, whatever the case may be. Then it moves into a series of questions to ask the caller," Chris Jasper, the manager of MUSCOM, said.

Before this software was implemented, dispatchers relied on paper cards to ask questions to callers.

"It was very time consuming and a slow process, as well as they were asking the information and that information wasn't getting relayed to first responders," Jasper said.

Now, when information is entered into the dispatcher's computer the information is immediately updated in the computers of the first responders. Each question is built upon the response to the previous question to gather a better assessment of the patient’s condition.

"Basically any type of medical situation we can give instructions before the ambulance arrives. All that information is being seen live in an ambulance in their computer as they're responding to the scene. So they're seeing the most up-to-date information on patient condition," Jasper said.

With information coming to first responders faster, it allows them the chance to make a better action plan before arriving to the scene.

"We know what kind of questions have been asked, what the answers were, and it gives our paramedics the chance to assess the situation a little more," Assistant Fire Chief Matt Hartman, of the Muscatine Fire Dept., said.

The software is also helping dispatchers determine the appropriate amount of resources to send to a call, leaving other units available for other calls.

"If they answer yes to any of the critical questions, an engine with additional paramedics may go with the ambulance. If it's something not so critical, an engine might not go with them," Jasper said, "We're getting that information to the responders quicker, as well as getting them out the door quicker than what we did before it"

MUSCOM began using the system last week. All emergency dispatchers and first responders went through a training. Dispatchers must also re-certify every two years.

In 2019, MUSCOM dispatchers created more than 54,000 calls for service across Muscatine County.