The Critical Illness and Trauma Foundation (CIT) of
Bozeman, Mont., installed desktop video conferencing equipment
in ambulance services across Montana to provide a link between prehospital
care providers and doctors to improve the quality of service performed by
Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs).
Montana citizens and visitors die from trauma at a 30%
greater rate than the national average because of deficiencies in some
phase of medical care. This project focuses on overcoming the challenge of
providing medical direction by using computer technology to link remote
medical directors to Montana's prehospital care providers -- primarily to
volunteer EMTs who are often hampered by lack of training opportunities,
time, fiscal resources and medical support.
The program was funded by a $300,000 grant from the
U.S. Department of Commerce's Technology Opportunities Program. CIT was one of 46 grant
recipients chosen from more than 750 applicants.
The Critical Illness and Trauma Foundation collaborated on the IDVC project with the Emergency Medical Services and
Injury Prevention Section (EMSIPS)
of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services of Helena,
Mont., and the Burns Telecommunications Center (BTC)
at Montana State University in Bozeman.
"In a rural state like Montana, the treatment an
accident victim receives from an EMT who arrives on the scene may mean the
difference between life and death," said Larry Irving, assistant
secretary for commerce in charge of the National Telecommunications and
Information Administration. "This grant will help ensure the EMTs out
on the front lines get the medical direction they need as effectively and
efficiently as possible. We believe the CIT Foundation's creative approach
of using desktop video conferencing to provide this medical direction will
become a national model for improving the quality of EMT services."
Montana Sen. Conrad Burns said, "CIT and its partners
are doing a great service to Montanans, especially those in rural areas
who don't have immediate access to doctors. This is the kind of program
the Burns Telecommunications Center was made for. It improves the quality
of life for Montanans and really lets us reap the benefits of the
Upon receiving the grant, CIT President and CEO Nels D.
Sanddal said, "The Critical Illness and Trauma Foundation is pleased
to have the opportunity to contribute in this way to the improvement of
rural emergency medical care in Montana. With this project, Montana can
serve as a model for other states that plan to invest in infrastructure
and programming that will create top-notch Emergency Medical Services
The Interactive Desktop Video Conferencing project uses as its foundation a unique existing resource: the Montana TENKIDS
electronic community. TENKIDS was established in
1996 through a public-private partnership with CIT, Montana EMSIPS
and the BTC that placed a
multi-media computer platform in more than 100 licensed ambulance services
in Montana. This electronic community allows prehospital providers to
exchange information, access the latest in high-quality training and
participate in computerized patient record keeping and data collection
activities. The TENKIDS computer infrastructure
represents the most sophisticated and complete network in EMS anywhere in
The Interactive Desktop Video Conferencing project builds on this valuable TENKIDS
electronic infrastructure by adding desktop computer video technology (a
small video camera linked directly to the PC) and by demonstrating how to
best use electronic technology to improve rural emergency medical care
through stronger quality improvement and medical direction activities.
With IDVC technology in place, ambulance services can hold conferences in
which they can see the other party, as well as exchange computer files
(such as visual patient care records). Before now, IDVC technology had not been
explored in the EMS arena, and in a remote state like Montana, offers an exciting new means of distance learning to improve the knowledge
and skills of the state's ambulance service personnel. The IDVC project
serves as a "field test" not only for EMS but for
applications in other professions across Montana and the nation.