The Muscatine Fire Department recently upgraded its ambulance cots to treat patients more accurately.

Each of the cots in the department’s ambulances has been updated with a weight scale that will provide an accurate weight for a patient after they have been loaded onto the cot.

(Muscatine Fire Department)

“Weights are essential in EMS (Emergency Medical Services),” said Gary Ronzheimer, Muscatine Fire Red Shift Battalion Chief and the Training and Operations Supervisor. “We administer medications based on a patient’s weight, so we are eliminating the guesswork in administering the correct dosage.”

Before the weight scales were installed, EMS technicians had to guess patients’ weights. They estimate they have been within 10% of the correct weight for about 74% of the patients but up to 20% for other patients.

“When we are inaccurate up to 20% of the weight, we run the risk of overdosing or underdosing a patient when giving critical medications,” said Ronzheimer.

The cot scales will give technicians a permissible amount of about 3% accuracy. This will be beneficial for patients of all ages, especially elderly and pediatric patients.

“Muscatine Fire Department is a rural EMS service, so we sometimes have to administer various life-saving medications due to how far our transport time can be to hospitals with specialty care,” Ronzheimer said. “When we have extended transport times, we typically have to give multiple doses or run medications on IV infusion pumps to ensure they get the correct dosage over a certain amount of time to maintain therapeutic levels.”

The Muscatine Fire Department used a demo scale a year ago for a few months and discovered how beneficial they would be to the department. The department also bought software that syncs to the scale, imports the weight to a medication chart and calculates medications based on Muscatine Fire protocols. This will reduce medication errors, improve accuracy and reduce the time it takes EMS crews to verify calculations, Ronzheimer said. The scales were funded through the Muscatine Fire Department capital outlay budget.