911! Computer Lets Emergency Squads Access Callers' Health Data

From 1998 to 2000, the Arizona Center on Aging, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson, funded the expansion of Project OPEN (Older Persons' Emergency Response Network).

Medical responders often arrive at the scene of an emergency having little information about the person in distress. Project OPEN, a database of personalized medical information about elderly people who live in Tucson, Ariz., allows responders to access relevant data immediately following a 911 call. The City of Tucson implemented Project OPEN in 1992.

Key Results

  • Project staff developed and implemented a Computer Participant Tracking (CAD) System allowing them to monitor the status of existing and/or potential participants. The system also flags areas of information that generate data essential to program operations.
  • Tucson's Department of Operations completed modifications to the CAD system so that it can accommodate the expanded Project OPEN database.
  • Project staff enrolled an additional 1493 senior citizens, using strategies such as presentations to senior citizens groups, mailings, media events, and referral arrangements with local agencies. Project OPEN enrolled children with special needs, developmentally disabled adults, and persons with hearing and visual impairments, bringing total enrollment as of November 2000 to 1765.
  • To make Project OPEN more accessible to the Spanish-speaking community, staff developed a Recruitment Action Plan. They also hired a bilingual interviewer, and had all materials translated into Spanish.
  • Project staff continuously evaluated the project by systematically comparing project results with objectives and performance benchmarks.
  • According to the project director, the continued support and participation of key community agencies were vital to the project.
  • The project directors made presentations on Project OPEN to the American Society on Aging and to the Governor's Conference on Aging.