Memos: DC Ambulance Computers Can't Communicate Patient Records With Private Ambulances

The D.C. fire department confirmed a significant computer communication problem affecting ambulance service.

The city’s contract with American Medical Response (AMR) began Monday. AMR is supposed to respond to non-life-threatening 911 calls from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

News4’s Mark Segraves obtained internal memos from the D.C. Fire and EMS Department that highlight compatibility issues between city units and AMR.

AMR computers and D.C. fire computers do not speak to one another, so patient information cannot be transferred electronically. As a result, D.C. firefighters and EMS personnel must remain on a scene and transfer information by hand on paper forms.

The city is aware of the problem and hopes to have a software update to fix the problem within eight to 10 weeks, a department spokesman told News4.

In the meantime, ambulance crews continue filling out paper reports, and some have told News4 that is slowing down service.

But the department told News4 the paper reports have not had a significant impact on transport times.

AMR units are not allowed to be used for any life-threatening calls, even if no D.C. ambulance is available.

Fire department sources told Segraves a cardiac arrest patient waited 28 minutes for a D.C. ambulance though an AMR ambulance was nearby. A fire department spokesman disputed this account. News4 has requested a list of computer-assisted dispatches from that day.

Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. FEMS Chief Gregory Dean said the AMS service will help reduce delayed 911 responses and give D.C. firefighters and paramedics more time for training.

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