The Special Needs Tracking & Awareness Response System (STARS), was founded just over two years ago at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon’s Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. The team at Cardinal Glennon realized that they needed to do something to address the growing number of children in the U.S. with special health care needs, many of whom are at a higher risk for repeated ambulance transports.

As an EMT for over 18 years, Patricia Casey, the Missouri Coordinator of the STARS Program, knows how intimidating it can be for a first responder to walk into a home that in many ways may look like a hospital room. Children with special health care needs can require many different types of in home medical equipment that first responders are often not familiar with. The STARS Program aims to make the job of the first responders easier while making children with medical needs and their parents more comfortable with ambulances in case they need to be transported in one.

Cardinal Glennon works with local ambulance districts to enroll children with special medical needs in that district’s STAR Program. Once a child is registered in STARS, they are given a unique patient identification number and a home visit is scheduled with the patient and their family to compile pertinent medical history. Participating ambulance companies then create a book with all of the stars in their area so that their first responders have access to the medical information on the go. If a STAR needs to be transported, their caregiver can relay their STAR number to the dispatcher who will then let the first responders know. First responders can then look up crucial medical information about the STARS patient, so they can be better prepared when they arrive on scene.

Knowing that many medical devices in the homes of the STARS may be foreign to first responders, Cardinal Glennon’s staff provides free necessary trainings all around Missouri and now Illinois. Shelby Cox works as the Team Lead for EMS outreach, and Josh Dugal, RN, is the EMT-P STARS Coordinator for Illinois. Together with Casey, they help keep the program running smoothly. Each participating ambulance company appoints a STARS coordinator on their staff who will make biannual home visits and make sure the STARS medical information is up to date. Cardinal Glennon also sets up regular opportunities for STARS to visit their local first responders. Giving STARS the chance to get familiar with an ambulance and their local first responders prior to a medical emergency has been proven to help out both parties when an emergency occurs.

A paramedic who has responded to STARS calls explains that “the STARS system permitted me to have advanced medical knowledge before I walked through the door. There was no time lost backtracking to learn the patient’s history or baseline in the midst of a chaotic scene”. In addition to helping the first responders, the STARS program has been a huge reassurance to the parents of STARS whose children may often need medical assistance.

To learn more about Cardinal Glennon’s STARS program, visit their website or check them out on Facebook. Also check out Patricia Casey’s Article on the STARS Program which includes testimonials from both parents and first responders who have participated in the program.
Thanks to the entire team at Cardinal Glennon for your great work!

Do you know of other innovative programs being run by ambulance services? Share with the AAA so that we might feature those programs on the AAA Blog as well.

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