Plan would improve patient treatment, bill collection for LAFD paramedics

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A Los Angeles City Fire Department ambulance.

A plan to equip paramedics with high-tech information devices that would enhance patient treatment while improving bill collection for ambulance services cleared two Los Angeles City Council
committees today.

The Public Safety and Personnel committees forwarded to the full council two proposed contracts with independent companies chosen to implement the plan.

Under the first proposed contract, Scan Health Inc. -- better known as Sansio -- would lease "handheld tablet personal computers'' that can generate electronic patient care records to the LAFD.

With the "Electronic Field Data Capture System,'' dispatchers would be able to transmit information about a patient to paramedics en route to administer emergency aid.

If paramedics decide to transport the patient to a hospital, they can use the device to give doctors and nurses advance notice about the patient's condition.

Data about the emergency medical service would eventually be sent to a billing and collection agency, Advanced Data Processing Inc.

Under the second proposed contract, ADPI would take a 5.5 percent cut of net collections.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana recommended both contracts, saying services would be improved and money saved.

"Instituting the new system will transform the Fire Department's emergency medical services data collection and billings and collections process from a paper-based to an electronic medium,'' he said in a report.

"Because the data entry function will be performed in the field by the EMS paramedics when they create the electronic patient care record, the current office staff in the EMS Billing Unit will no longer need to perform these tasks,'' he added.

The plan is to reassign the staff to perform other duties. Santana also noted the federal government has mandated the establishment of electronic health records for every person in the country by 2014.

The contracts would help the city avoid being fined millions of dollars for failing to meet that requirement, he said.

Though members of both committees seemed impressed by the technology demonstrated today, they had concerns about the actual cost of the plan.

The city's budget analysts and ADPI are still computing the number of personnel who would be needed to run the billing and collection program.

The committees decided neither to approve nor reject the contracts, and instead forward them to the full council without a recommendation.

Earlier this month, City Controller Wendy Greuel released an audit showing the city billed a total of $553 million for fiscal year 2008-09, but collected only $293 million.

According to the audit, the "most egregious'' examples of uncollected funds are Emergency Medical Services ambulance rides, where the city collected only 38 percent of the money it is owed.

The audit was released the same day the city began laying off workers to cut costs.

KPCC wire services contributed to this report.

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