Patient tracking during large-scale events is a challenge. Patients may be passed between first responders, ground transport, air transport, and then transferred from one facility to another. For routine calls with individual patients, it’s feasible to track who transported the patient and where they ended up. But in mass-casualty incidents and large-scale hazards, chaotic scenes and large numbers of patients make it difficult to keep track of each patient, their information, and their ultimate destination.
In order to solve these problems, some states are using a new approach to patient tracking: statewide wristbands with barcodes that can help track patients across organizations by functioning as a universal patient ID.
PDC is partnering with Pulsara, the leading telehealth, communication, and patient logistics platform, to offer wristbands for tracking patients within the Pulsara platform.
Connecting Patients to Care
When assessing patients in the field, first responders (EMTs, medics, firefighters, and police) place a PDC wristband on a patient. Using the Pulsara platform on their smart device, they can scan the barcodes on patient wristbands to create a new patient channel or locate an existing one. From there, all caregivers throughout the patient’s journey can simply scan the barcode on the wristband to join the patient channel, view their existing information and location, join the conversation, and add additional information such as vitals, photos, notes, or an updated triage status.
Pulsara also enables seamless handoff of patients transported to a hospital or transferred to another facility, helping track patients throughout their entire care journey. Hospital staff can scan the patient’s barcode and instantly locate the patient channel, avoiding confusion and ensuring they are working on the right patient at the right time.
PDC and Pulsara in Action
PDC wristbands are being used with Pulsara across several states. Texas has begun a statewide initiative to provide pre-printed wristbands for providers to use in every patient encounter. Once scanned into Pulsara, the barcode ID becomes associated with that patient, keeping a record of care from first response to EMS care and the emergency department. The ID also stays with the patient through any hospital transfers and tertiary care until discharge, making it easier to track them through their entire care journey.
During a recent full-scale crisis exercise conducted by the FAA at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport in Lubbock, Texas, emergency response teams used PDC wristbands alongside the Pulsara platform to enhance collaboration, triage, patient tracking, and reunification. First responders from multiple agencies assembled to respond to a drill scenario that involved a rental truck crashing through tarmac fencing and colliding with a plane that was preparing to take off, injuring 56 passengers.
During the simulation, first responders and city agencies used the Texas statewide wristbands provided by PDC, combined with Pulsara’s Incident Management functionality, to enter patient information, communicate, and coordinate care. Responders triaged patients and fitted them with wristbands. Using Pulsara, they scanned the armband barcodes to create new channels for each patient, adding name, date of birth, patient condition, and photos of each patient and their injuries.
“Pulsara allowed everyone on scene to have full visibility from any location once they joined the incident,” shared Brent Fox, NREMT-P, Logistics Chief and Emergency Preparedness Specialist for University Medical Center Emergency Medical Services (UMC EMS) in Lubbock, TX. “Having this visibility on scene allowed us to ensure the correct patients were transported at the correct time. When the last patient left the scene, we were able to have real-time status and 100 percent accountability for all patients that were transported.” While Lubbock responders have historically relied on triage tags for incidents of this magnitude, the process worked well enough that they did not need to use them. Further drills in Texas have demonstrated the benefits of taking photos of patients, which can also help with reunification.
PDC wristbands were also used with Pulsara to track runners during the recent 2023 Baker to Vegas relay race, covering a total of 120 miles from Baker, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada. Race participants wore specialized barcoded wristbands provided by PDC. When a medical incident occurred, the race’s medical staff were able to quickly scan the patient’s wristband using the Pulsara platform on their smart device. A new patient channel was instantly created, and all relevant medical staff was able to collaborate and keep informed around the patient case. According to event organizers and medical personnel, this new workflow using both Pulsara and PDC wristbands was a huge improvement from the previous year—and they were able to support and track 100% of the patients who were scanned.
Improving Trauma Care from Dispatch to Discharge
Healthcare systems fundamentally rely upon timely communication, and Pulsara has transformed how critical information is exchanged across healthcare silos. PDC has been a leader in delivering patient identification and safety solutions for over 65 years. The partnership illustrates how combining certain tools and technologies can significantly augment their capabilities to help both healthcare providers and patients.
Together, PDC and Pulsara aim to enable and improve collaboration between healthcare professionals. From dispatch to discharge, first responders, care teams, and emergency management stay connected around each patient along the whole patient journey, helping them receive the care they need at the right place and at the right time.