Media Contacts

Kathy Wilets

Apr 17, 2013 9:30 AM

Salt Lake City-When emergency responders are transporting patients to the hospital, every second can make the difference. But during these critical moments, there can be a dangerous balancing act between speed and safety. A new partnership has addressed that issue, which will result in safer and faster patient transport to two of the area's Level 1 trauma centers.

University of Utah Hospital, Primary Children's Medical Center, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), Salt Lake City, and the emergency medical services community have banded together to help implement Opticom, an infrared traffic light system that provides automatic green light traffic signal access to emergency vehicles.

"Children are our most precious cargo, and now with this system, we can all rest assured that their delivery to the hospital will be faster and safer than ever," says Ed Clark, M.D. chief medical officer of Primary Children's and chair of the U of U Department of Pediatrics.

Here's how the system works: Equipped vehicles have an emitter, which broadcasts a signal to a receiver mounted on or near the traffic light. The emitter can trigger a green light for the approaching emergency vehicle. If the light is already green, it will stay green until the vehicle has cleared. Similar systems in other states have resulted in faster, safer access for emergency vehicles.

"This is an important improvement for our most vulnerable patients," says Charles Saltzman, M.D., chair of the U of U Department of Orthopaedics. "This effort took tremendous teamwork and I'm grateful we worked effectively to compete this project."

The system has been installed on a route following 600 South to 700 East, along 100 South up to the University area, and along Foothill Drive from I-80 to Mario Capecchi Drive. The sensors will ensure faster, safer access to the level 1 trauma centers located at University Hospital and Primary Children's. Level 1 trauma centers offer the highest level of surgical care to trauma patients and have a full range of specialties including neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery.

"With conditions like heart attack, stroke or trauma, every second counts," says Peter Taillac, M.D., emergency physician at University Hospital. "This system will help save lives."

Matt Taylor, EMS coordinator for Salt Lake City Fire Department, says Opticom will benefit everybody. "Now that the traffic corridors are secured, the patients, EMS personnel, and the surrounding community are all safer during emergency transport. This is an amazing partnership and permanent improvement in patient care and EMS safety."