In March, Chad Richter, Williamson County senior medical officer, responded to the scene of a man who had low oxygen saturation levels but felt fine.
Richter’s Hutto-based ambulance was outfitted with a Phillips Lumify portable ultrasound, and it helped him diagnose the patient with pneumonia.
But the Williamson County area is improving health care with more than just portable ultrasound. By May, the public will also benefit from a Text to 911 program and software that aims to bring immediate help to cardiac arrest patients.
The innovations are a big step in continuing to revolutionize medicine across the county, Williamson County EMS Capt. Dan Cohen said.
“[These services] will allow members of the public to serve in a very important role,” he said.
Williamson County EMS is one of three entities in Texas participating in a 90-day study led by Jason Bowman, a fourth-year medical student at Texas A&M University.
Bowman said he wanted to expand ultrasound use to more than just trauma-specific situations and see if the machines can be made more useful in ambulances.
Phillips Lumify loaned Bowman five portable ultrasound machines. He outfitted Williamson County with two of them for the 90-day trial.
The machines can be used to locate veins or find fluid in the lungs as well as diagnose an ectopic pregnancy. They are plugged into a tablet with a display monitor, and Richter said EMS personnel can record and save a loop of footage to share with doctors upon arrival to the hospital.
The county is logging each ultrasound use to measure its effectiveness. Data may be able to justify future purchase of ultrasound machines, he said.
“There really [is]a great potential to make a difference,” Richter said. “But we really want to base this on data before we spend anyone’s money.”
By mid-April, the county will have released PulsePoint, a mobile app that connects bystander CPR-trained individuals to reported cardiac arrests within a 400-yard radius in public places.
“Our response times are very quick,” Cohen said. “But even if it only takes three to four minutes, that is still time the brain [and heart are]not receiving the blood and nutrients [they need]to survive.”
The software pushes out an alert when 911 operators get a call reporting a cardiac arrest so trained individuals can help before emergency services arrive.
Last year, 46 percent of all cardiac arrest patients in the county had some form of bystander CPR before emergency services arrived. County officials are encouraging residents who are trained in CPR and AED use to download the app and act if necessary.
“If everyone in the community who is physically able was willing to learn CPR, the survival rate in this country would be significantly higher,” Cohen said.
Text to 911
County residents can also expect to be able to send a text message to 911 by late May.
The software will help those who cannot speak because of a threat or medical condition, said Gregg Obuch, emergency communications director of the Capital Area Council of Governments. It can also be used if one has poor reception.
The service will be available to residents in 10 counties around the Central Texas area who use AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile.
Although the software is another resource available in a dangerous situation, CAPCOG officials still encourage residents to “call if you can, and text if you can’t.”