Incident reports are arguably the most crucial documents an EMS company must contend with. They’re reflective of the company’s responsiveness to adverse circumstances that arise in emergencies already fraught with risk. Accuracy and transparency are absolute necessities since incident reports are major reference points in legal, financial, marketability, and insurance actions the company may face.
Just as importantly, incident reports are used to refine an EMS company’s procedures and improve their overall service. They serve as benchmarks to build a strong, effective, life-saving resource.
For those reasons, incident reports are justifiably complex. That also means they can be prohibitively difficult to complete. This was especially true in the age when they were all completed on paper and sending them along the chain of command relied on physical delivery and highly organized office managers.
Software has alleviated a lot of the hard, often redundant work involved with incident reports—not just in their composition, but in how they’re distributed and saved to help EMS companies in the future.
Creating incident reports
One facet of incident reports that distinguish them from other official forms is their heavy dependence on narrative. The core of an incident report is, after all, someone’s recollection of the incident. It requires the recall of a multitude of intricate details and an exact recall of events as they unfolded.
For that reason, it’s almost impossible to build a report template that automates input of all that information. But there are ways to improve the reporting, make it more complete, and accelerate the process. Some details can be entered with leading text prompts and auto-fill information—location of the incident, standard procedures that were employed, medications administered on the spot, common symptoms or behaviors that were observed, and so forth.
The singular nature of each incident that’s reported prevents solely using checklists or templates to fill out a complete account—as it should be. But digital report forms can have modules that help the report along. By their nature, digital forms have much more capability in this regard than old paper reports. EMS software can even modify existing paper forms and convert them to digital format, adding improved digital functionalities and accountability in the process.
EMS software can also help prevent more errors and redundancy in incident reports, such as accidental double-entry of data.
Mobile technology can also help employees issue more accurate descriptions from the scene of the incident. EMS software can be enabled to receive partial accounts from a mobile phone as soon as it’s possible for the employee, making it easier to get a jump on the incident reporting process.
Maintain incident report follow-up
Replicating chains of command is a key feature in all kinds of enterprise software solutions, most often carried out by automating workflow.
The process of an incident report as it winds through the system needs to be monitored. It’s usually necessary to restrict its visibility to those with “need-to-know” status. But it’s equally important to make sure it’s being viewed and acknowledged by all points in the review chain, and those actionable items are executed.
This is where EMS tracking software can be extraordinarily useful. An incident report can travel along built-in digital workflows to ensure its receipt by every assigned administrator, who can access and view the report on any approved device.
Action items can be regulated with software as well. Triggers can spur users to complete follow-up tasks—signoffs, editing, notifying others—related to the report. Automated processes can also mark red flags or launch escalation.
Aiding auditing and inspections
When an incident report results in the need for a set of procedures or situational equipment to be audited or inspected, tracking software can move the process along more efficiently. Inspector checklists can be automatically generated and completed.
Mobile technology can be especially helpful in this stage. Reports from inspections of EMS vehicles can be completed and filed straight from the site. Review of crew and vehicle certifications can be facilitated by smartphone cameras, photos from which can be automatically attached to all necessary documentation.
Tracking software can assist auditors through the analysis of certain compliance data points with customized standards.
Guiding an incident toward closure
The resolution of an incident report—including final determinations, suggested action items, personnel decisions, or policy changes—can be moved toward closure with tracking software. Extracted data and information can be applied to necessary insurance or legal forms or attached to internal personnel records. Plans of action can be automatically routed to responsible parties.
Making incident reports meaningful
Incident reports are documents that can dictate the future of an EMS company in several ways. As permanent accounts of events that demonstrably went outside normal boundaries, they help companies better prepare for and prevent accidents and unforeseen occurrences.
They help an EMS business understand where it falls short in certain practices and policies and can point the way toward meaningful improvement. In cases where the EMS company must defend itself legally, an accurate incident report can help set up a solid foundation for the procedures they follow and help limit their liability.
Tracking software can save time, reduce work, set milestones, and analyze data along the incident report chain. On a broader scale, it can also help an EMS company respond more confidently and comprehensively to the events that shape its mission.