Earlier this week, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) and University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on innovation for emergency medical care and response as well as mobile broadband for rural first responders in Mississippi and nationwide.
Governor Phil Bryant, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith joined executives from the FirstNet Authority and UMMC officials at a signing ceremony on the UMMC campus to unveil the agreement.
“Emergencies can happen anywhere at any time – and in rural areas, communications is often a challenge,” said Secretary Ross. “FirstNet is designed to help meet these challenges and modernize public safety communications. With this collaboration, the FirstNet Authority and the Mississippi Center for Emergency Services are coming together to drive innovation for first responders in Mississippi and nationwide to help them save lives and protect communities.”
“The University of Mississippi leads the nation in advancing telehealth technology and emergency services. Through our collaboration with the FirstNet Authority, we will share our expertise and knowledge to help connect and innovate for first responders throughout the state and nationwide,” said Governor Bryant. “Mississippi’s first responders are dedicated to serving our communities every day and in every emergency. I am excited about this collaboration and the benefits that it will deliver to our public safety community, as well as to first responders across the country – especially those in rural areas.”
“The collaboration with the FirstNet Authority shows UMMC will continue its leadership in telemedicine and emergency response to help those in need throughout the state,” said U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. “I’m proud of UMMC’s work to improve the health of rural Mississippians, and commend Secretary Ross for tapping the expertise of our medical center to provide the broadband connections needed to power the most advanced life-saving tools to keep Mississippians safe.”
“The collaboration announced today is well deserved for the University of Mississippi Medical Center,” U.S. Senator Roger Wicker said in a statement supporting the collaboration. “After years of strategic planning and investment, the Center for Emergency Services at UMMC will become a national resource on emergency communication in rural areas. The expertise we develop in Mississippi will help improve medical response and patient outcomes throughout our country.”
The FirstNet Authority, within the U.S. Department of Commerce, is responsible for ensuring the buildout of FirstNet, the only dedicated nationwide broadband network for America’s first responders. As part of its mission, the FirstNet Authority is working to better understand the needs of first responders operating in rural communities, where communications are often a challenge.
UMMC, Mississippi’s only academic health sciences center, established the Mississippi Center for Emergency Services to help the state maintain medical services during emergencies and disasters. Supporting that mission is UMMC’s extensive telehealth network, which in 2017 was designated one of two Telehealth Centers of Excellence by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.
Together, the FirstNet Authority and the Mississippi Center for Emergency Services will drive innovation for rural emergency medicine and response and share case studies, lessons learned and best practices related to public safety’s use of mobile broadband in rural areas.
“We established the Mississippi Center for Emergency Services in part to help improve the knowledge and capabilities of first responders statewide, especially those serving the most remote areas,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “We can handle the medical support training and emergency response communications, but we need partners to help us with the technology necessary for every part of the state to be connected to potential life-saving support in real time.
“A collaboration with FirstNet will have a dramatically positive effect across the state during a disaster or other emergency event.”
Through this collaboration with UMMC, the FirstNet Authority will gain critical insight into how medical incidents are handled in rural communities— specifically, how first responders can leverage innovative technologies to improve medical response and patient outcomes. The FirstNet Authority and the Mississippi Center for Emergency Services plan to create demonstrations related to rural first responders’ use of broadband to be incorporated into the FirstNet Authority’s new experience program. This program aims to introduce first responders to current and future technologies through hands-on educational and learning experiences.
“Technologies for tele-emergency medicine will be transformative for our nation, equipping first responders with critical information when they need it most,” said FirstNet Board Chair Edward Horowitz. “Through this collaboration with UMMC, the FirstNet Authority will be better prepared to advance the public safety broadband capabilities for emergency services in our nation’s rural communities and help public safety operationalize technology for rural emergency response as the network evolves.”
“This collaboration will allow FirstNet Authority to draw on the expertise of one of our nation’s leading academic medical centers so that we can improve the FirstNet experience for first responders in Mississippi and across the country,” said FirstNet Authority Acting CEO Ed Parkinson. “We are thankful for this opportunity to work with the Mississippi Center for Emergency Services as we focus our efforts on public safety officials serving in rural areas and providing them with tools they need to help improve patient outcomes.”
“Technology is the key addition we need to improve emergency care in rural America,” said Dr. Damon Darsey, associate professor of emergency medicine and medical director of the Mississippi Center for Emergency Services. “This collaboration will help Mississippi share lessons learned and allow FirstNet to bring new technology and opportunities to challenge what is possible.”
The agreement also represents the first step toward establishing the FirstNet Authority’s University Program. The FirstNet Authority plans to partner with universities with expertise in different aspects of public safety communications to enhance the network and educate public safety employees on how best to use cutting-edge technologies.