Gabe Diamond saw a need for simplification.
As a flight paramedic for STAT MedEvac in Pittsburgh, he knew firsthand how difficult the job was. Flight paramedics care for critically ill or injured patients while transporting them to the hospital. To perform that job, they use a wide range of reference materials — flight protocols and radio channels, as well as clinical tools like information on drug dosing and assessing a stroke.
For many years, it was difficult to get that information quickly while in flight.
“If you needed to check your protocols, you’d have to pull out your protocol book from your pocket,” Gabe says. “If you wanted to do drug calculations, you had to pick some third-party app or pull out your calculator and do it the old-fashioned way. If you wanted to do a stroke assessment, that was on another piece of paper. If you needed to find a radio channel, you’d have to pull out a binder and flip through that.”
Gabe thought he could make that part of the job easier, so he got to work. He designed a mobile app that puts all the information flight paramedics need in one location and at their fingertips.
The app, which launched in February 2021, is now used widely by employees at STAT MedEvac.
“I honestly don’t know any medical crew members who don’t use it,” Gabe says. “It was very well received.”
‘There Could Definitely Be Something Better’
Gabe began at STAT MedEvac in 2018 after working as a ground paramedic for the city of Pittsburgh. He also worked in a hospital emergency department and at suburban EMS agencies to learn more and build experience.
The job of being a flight paramedic wasn’t a major transition. The bigger challenge was working in such a confined space and needing to search through his bag and pockets for important reference materials while in the air.
“It was frustrating to me because I kind of knew there could definitely be something better,” he says.
So, Gabe got to work creating that something better. Although he had no background in app development — “I honestly hadn’t written code since high school,” he says — he got to work on creating his app.
Gabe based the app on a similar one designed for ground emergency medical services (EMS) providers in Pennsylvania. He took an online course on app development and made a prototype. STAT MedEvac administrators approved the prototype and gave his idea the green light.
Gabe estimates he spent “a few hundred hours” putting the app together in his spare time. He compiled all relevant reference documents a flight paramedic would need and combined them into the app.
If he ran into a problem during development, Gabe searched online for guidance.
In October 2020, Gabe put out a request for seven or eight people to beta test the app. More than 80 STAT MedEvac flight crew members signed up.
By February 2021, the app was ready to launch.
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‘All There at Your Fingertips’
Gabe’s app includes all the relevant documents that STAT MedEvac paramedics might need, including protocols and radio channels. It has a built-in calculator to provide accurate medicine dosages. It even has clinical tools, such as a burn calculator that allows the user to pinpoint the areas of the body that are burned.
“Gabe’s STAT app has been able to take away those calculations that may encounter human error and already have them taken care of,” says Emma Roka, a nurse for STAT MedEvac. “That way, we’re able to take care of patients in those precious seconds.
“Gabe’s attention to detail is second to none. He’s able to anticipate all of the things that we need and possibly could need in the future to make our job easier.”
Best of all, the information is available in one location.
“It’s all there at your fingertips,” Gabe says.
Gabe says the reaction to the app has been “overwhelmingly positive.” He gets messages from other crew members who are grateful to have quick access to this important information. STAT MedEvac administrators have put their full support behind the app.
“It’s really a useful tool,” says Gabe. “In medicine, people tend to hate change, no matter what it is. But this app is one of the few things — not the only thing, but one of the few things — released that people have just adopted immediately and really like.”
‘Time Is of the Essence’
Of course, app development isn’t exactly Gabe’s day job.
As a flight paramedic, Gabe works 24-hour shifts twice a week in his job. When STAT MedEvac gets a call, he, his partner, and a pilot gather the necessary equipment and fly to wherever they’re needed.
After landing, they provide on-ground care and fly the patient to the hospital.
“Some of our patients are sicker than others,” Gabe says. “They’re being taken by helicopter, so by definition, they’re all at least fairly sick. But some require a lot of intervention to stabilize them. Especially with trauma cases that come from the scene, time is of the essence.”
Gabe enjoys the day-to-day challenges of being a flight paramedic and estimates he makes two or three flights during each shift. It’s a job he hopes to continue for a while.
“Both the breadth and depth of the stuff that we see, the learning really never stops on this job,” he says. “We see some really complex patients and we get to do a lot of complex things. At this job, you get to do more as a nurse or paramedic than you would essentially anywhere else — doing certain procedures that in the hospitals are mostly done by physicians.”
He also plans to keep updating his app.
Gabe wants to add more clinical care calculators and some video tutorials. He also wants to enhance the app’s ability to update automatically when something changes.
The app is currently proprietary and not available beyond STAT MedEvac. Gabe says he could see the use of apps like his increasing throughout the country.
“I’d love to think about moving in that direction,” he says. “It would definitely take a lot of time and work, but I think it would be valuable. I’d love to do something like that.”
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