HP-EMS Profile: Cetronia

Growth in both the industrial and residential populations has dramatically changed the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania since 1955 when the non-profit ambulance service, Cetronia Ambulance Corps, first began its all-volunteer BLS services.  In response to the communities need for an increase in public health and safety services, Cetronia has grown to include ALS service, 24-hour dispatch, and non-emergency medical transportation.  Additionally, Cetronia provides billing services, community outreach, education, special events coverage and special operations teams.  The diversity of their fleet allows the most appropriate level of service for the customer’s need from a doctor’s office visit to a critical care transport.  Cetronia continually strives to understand the medical needs of its communities and remains “Always Ready” to accommodate any pre-hospital emergency care and medical transportation needs.  This attitude of adaptation is not new to Cetronia, rather a continuing legacy of a truly innovative EMS system and a commitment to providing “Health on Wheels™” for its residents.

In recent years, Cetronia recognized the enormous challenges facing the EMS industry including severely diminished reimbursement rates.  Since EMS billing specialists must be ready to meet these ever-changing reimbursement and additional compliance issues with competency and expertise, Cetronia has maintained their own team of nationally certified ambulance coders who offer an exceptional blend of ambulance billing experience, knowledge, and customer service to ensure fiscal stability and the organization’s continued success.

The increasing demand for healthcare services which threatened their ability to maintain response times is another example of what motivates their mindset of continual improvement.  Choosing to be a High Performance EMS system and maintaining national accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services (CAAS) means that Cetronia always challenges themselves to meet an increasingly higher standard.  After recognizing that static posting plans (always sitting at the same stations regardless of demand requirements) was not the most effective use of resources, one of the primary ways they improved efficiency was by moving EMS units around dynamically between soft posts (typically commercial parking lots or a local fire station) and hard posts (traditional EMS stations) allowing them to reduce response times as a factor of the day, date, and time.  “We believe where you live shouldn’t determine if you live.  Cetronia’s primary 911 response area encompasses 108 square miles; our High Performance system allows us to get to our patients quickly and ultimately improve upon patient outcomes,”  said Bob Walbert, Cetronia’s Communications Center Supervisor.

In 2007, Cetronia extended their existing Zoll RescueNet Data Management Suite with DispatchPro in order to specifically optimize ambulance deployment through Dynamic System Status Management.  On making that change, Walbert said “I’m privileged as I get to see how making changes in our system has worked and improved our response times.  We continually make changes through areas that are identified in our After Action Review as well as from actual observations.  “ I can attest that the system really works.”

Some critics of the posting plan concept have said that High Performance EMS is just a waste of money, pointing out that having trucks ride from post to post is actually a waste of fuel.  Yet over and over again, Cetronia sees the response time of crews drop when they are correctly posted at one of these designated soft posts.  By effectively positioning ambulances, crews are closer to where critical calls are likely to occur and consistently arrive on scene under the widely accepted time of 8 minutes and 59 seconds.  “I don’t think anyone can compare the value on a life saved due to having a system in place that allows for rapid response times with the fuel utilized to make it happen” says Walbert who added that this method of strategic posting is “a system we have encouraged and pioneered for years in anticipation of High Performance EMS becoming a reality….all in an effort to SAVE MORE LIVES!” As the High Performance system continually rotates crews throughout their coverage area, Cetronia is able to deliver on their philosophy of providing “Health on Wheels™” and keeping their life saving team skilled in care.

Cetronia’s High Performance EMS system as well as their many “High Performance Systems” are readily available for viewing and learning more about at their web site, www.cetronia.org.  Cetronia invites you to call, comment, tweet, or join us on Facebook and LinkedIn so everyone in our EMS family can deliver the very best in care and services.



  • BH says:

    “Screw the crews, it’s all about UHUs.”

  • daleloberger says:

    This is not the first time I have heard this sentiment and actually thank you for expressing it in a forum where we can respectfully discuss it. Efficiency (that is high performance) should not be practiced as squeezing everything you can from production (UHUs) without regard to other factors, but as the best overall utilization of resources (including crews, equipment, etc) to meet both the service’s objectives and public demand. Unit Hour Utilizations (UHU) is just one measure to help form a baseline vital sign in order to track progress. Like other vital signs in a human patient, it is not a single measure that matters, but the interpretation of the combined measurements over time that tell the story of survivability and suggest appropriate evidence-based treatments. Mismanagement of a service is disrespecting to both employees and the public, so the alternative is proper management considering both overall effectiveness as well as efficiency. There are many factors to consider in managing an EMS with these goals. And for employees of the organization, survivability is one critical factor. Few will argue that EMS is increasingly becoming associated with healthcare rather than simply being a public safety function. With reforms in how health services are paid for, performance is also becoming a critical factor. Measurement is a step toward solution not an end result.

  • Chocking on fumes says:

    If a service provider can’t meet the needs of the public without idling smelly polluting diesel engines in parking lots, then maybe the public should consider getting another service provider.

  • You are correct, this is a common sentiment. I recognize that some systems do use utilize High Performance solely to get high UHU’s, but respectable systems use it as a tool to save more lives. After all isn’t this why most of us got into it in the first place? Those that have been in EMS for a long period of time recognize that there is no perfect system, but HPEMS if developed correctly is about patient care and long term system sustainability. So yes, that means there is a financial component to it but what people need to understand is that it provides a practical solution to meeting the demand for services. As I see it, there are two options – HPEMS which requires planning, oversight, review, and teamwork or Static deployment which requires endless amounts of cash and many more stations and personnel. Without a system designed for efficiency, lives will continue to be lost. We implemented our HPEMS system because we believe that where you live should not determine if you live.

  • daleloberger says:

    This week representatives from the Eastern Pennsylvania Emergency Medical Services Council formally recognized Cetronia Ambulance Corps as the first EMS agency in the region to achieve the Council’s “Gold Standard of Excellence.” Congratulations! http://www.mcall.com/news/local/parkland/mc-parkland-cetronia-0617-20120622,0,435694.story

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