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Patient tracking

17 Dec 2021
Keeping track of patients in disasters. One step closer to universal and individual barcode tattoos?

Patient tracking

Farcas AM, Zaidi HQ, Wleklinski NP, Tataris KL. Implementing a Patient Tracking System in a Large EMS System. Prehospital Emergency Care. 2021 Feb 4:1-9.


Accurate tracking of patients poses a significant challenge to prehospital and hospital emergency medical providers in planned and unplanned events. Previous reports on patient tracking systems are limited primarily to descriptive reports of post incident reviews or simulated exercises. Our objective is to report our experience with implementing a patient barcode tracking system during various planned events within a large urban EMS system.

In 2018, representatives from the Chicago Department of Public Health, Chicago Fire Department EMS, private EMS agencies, and 27 hospitals in the Chicago EMS System were trained on the use of a web-based patient tracking system using barcoded triage tags and wristbands to monitor triage category and hospital destination during an event. The tracking system was used on two planned operational days and three pre-planned mass gathering events. The primary outcome was the percent of patients initially scanned by EMS that were scanned by the hospital. Descriptive statistics were collected. Barriers to patient tracking system use were identified.

Each event was reviewed for the number of patients assigned a barcode identifier and scanned by EMS that were then scanned by the hospital. In the first planned operational day, 57% (359/622) of patients initially scanned by EMS were scanned by the hospital. In the second planned operational day, 88% (355/402) of EMS scanned patients were scanned by the hospital and 37% (133/355) were assigned a final disposition. At three city mass gathering events, there were 79% (50/63), 95% (190/199), and 82% (46/56) of EMS scanned patients also scanned by hospitals. Logistical and technological challenges were documented.

Use of a web-based system with barcode identifiers successfully tracked patients from prehospital to hospital during planned operational days and mass gathering events. Percent of scanned patients increased after the first operational day and remained consistent in subsequent events. Limitations to the patient tracking system included logistical and technological barriers. Similar patient tracking systems may be implemented to assist with event management in other EMS systems.

Key words: EMS; patient tracking system; mass gathering event; prehospital; barcode

Photo by Jonnica Hill on Unsplash

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