Ambulances get speed, safety boost with new system

Posted at 5:43 PM, Apr 16, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-16 19:43:52-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- When EMS personnel are transporting patients to a hospital every second counts, and a new partnership has made it possible for ambulances in the area to avoid red lights, which makes ambulance services safer and faster.

The University of Utah, Utah Department of Transportation, Primary Children’s Medical Center and others have teamed up to create a system where ambulances use an emitter to change traffic signals to green lights when necessary.

Chris Delamare, Gold Cross Ambulance, said the new system offers a variety of benefits.

"When we can change that intersection light or semi-four to a green, for our direction of travel, it gets that cross traffic stopped, which allows us to proceed through an intersection more safely, more effectively, and get the patient to the hospital in a timely manner,” he said.

That extra speed can mean the difference between life and death, as Emergency Room Physician Troy Madsen points out.

"Minutes, seconds can save lives,” he said. “I can personally think of several cases I've had just over the last few years where I feel that if we would have gotten that patient to the emergency department even just a minute or two earlier, we might have been able to do something to save that person's life."

Doctors refer to the first hour after a person is hurt as “The Golden Hour” because speed is often so important when treating seriously injured people. Madsen said the new system will help in that regard.

"So if we can get them to the emergency department more quickly, we have the potential to reverse whatever the problem is, get them to the operating room, do the procedure and potentially save that person's life,” he said.

There is only so much medical personnel can do for patients in the back of an ambulance, and the new system will help them get patients to the hospital where they can be treated more quickly and with greater safety.