Lewisville and Coppell’s emergency medical service teams are adopting new communication processes as they work to improve patient care.

All Lewisville and Coppell firefighters are certified paramedics, which is required by the state. Lewisville’s firefighters are split into two groups: firefighter emergency medical technicians and firefighter paramedics, EMS Division Chief Brandon Thetford said.

Michael McDowell, division chief for EMS and support services, said the Coppell Fire Department is working with about 10 of its 90 firefighter paramedics to be certified as critical care paramedics, who will be able to provide more advanced care.

“We want to take care of our citizens at the best level of care,” McDowell said.

The overview

Pulsara, a telehealth communication platform, is now required for Texas hospitals but optional for fire departments, said Steven Palmer, EMS coordinator at Medical City Lewisville.

“Pulsara...basically allows [EMS] to send pictures or vital signs of a patient’s condition in real time,” said Robert Baca, EMS liaison at Baylor Scott & White’s Grapevine location.

McDowell said the Coppell Fire Department is working to have Pulsara available on all cellphones used on the department’s ambulances and fire engines by the end of 2025, which carries no additional cost to the city.

Lewisville has not fully adopted Pulsara yet; however, the department is adding other software.

"With this [new automated dispatch] system, as soon as [the call taker] gets enough information in and sends it, then a computer just comes over the radio and starts dispatching,” Thetford said.

A closer look

Lewisville’s EMS division transports patients to several area hospitals; however, the majority are sent to Medical City Lewisville, Thetford said. The destination is dependent upon the patient’s needs, their location and the hospital’s capabilities.

“If [patients] request to go to a [specific] hospital, we usually try to honor it,” he said. “The times that we don’t [are] if it’s really busy. It just really varies by the type of call.”

McDowell said the Coppell Fire Department primarily works with Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Grapevine, Medical City Las Colinas and Medical City Lewisville.

Lewisville has mutual aid agreements with surrounding cities and often works with nearby departments, including Coppell, Thetford said. For example, if all eight of Lewisville’s ambulances are in use, dispatchers will call surrounding cities for help, and vice versa.

Communication is key to a strong and effective partnership with local EMS teams, Palmer said.

Diving in deeper

On average, about 67% of Lewisville’s emergency calls are EMS related, according to department data.

Thetford said Lewisville has received a higher volume of calls overall due to population growth.

“When I started here, we were probably only doing about 8,000 calls a year, and now we’re doing close to 14,000 or 15,000 calls a year,” he said.

McDowell said the department has put 10 individuals through a more advanced critical care paramedic certification program.

He added that the department has a future goal of having one critical care paramedic per medical emergency call received.

“Any time that we can build our knowledge base, we feel that that’s important for us to be able to give the best care to our citizens,” McDowell said.

McDowell said around 61% of the department’s calls in 2023 were for EMS.

The bottom line

To address future needs, both departments have prioritized training and additional infrastructure.

Coppell City Council is expected to approve the remaining funds for the $12.5 million construction of Fire Station No. 5. Officials expect the station to provide additional fire and EMS coverage within the city.

The fire station is expected to open no later than next summer.

Kris Powell, director of emergency services for Baylor Scott & White, said their hospitals collaborate with emergency services in Lewisville and Coppell for service and training—the state requires continual training every four years for EMTs and paramedics to remain certified.

“Our teams continuously prepare to provide care for our communities during a variety of situations,” Powell said.