The Plain Township Fire Department is using technology to make the department more efficient.

The Plain Township Fire Department is using technology to make the department more efficient.

Earlier this month, firefighters began using wireless touch-screen computers to take notes about emergency scenes while in the field.

The handheld computers help firefighters keep track of patient information and communicate with each other to reduce reporting errors.

Chief John Hoovler said firefighters previously would take notes at scenes and compile their reports later.

"We do have computers in the vehicles, but when we go into a house, we have to write it on a note pad and transfer it back to the computer and finish the report when (they) get to the hospital," Hoovler said. "Then they need to be back here for another run."

An added benefit, which fire department officials hope to start reaping in the coming months, is increased revenue for EMS billing.

Jack Rupp, assistant fire chief, said the computers automatically send billing information to the township's billing company, Pittsburgh-based MED3000. As of April 21, the department was using the computers to file the billing reports.

"(Human error) is going to go away, and hopefully we will be able to turn that whole reporting system around," Rupp said.

In the past, Rupp said he would spend hours each Monday going through the reports and digitally sending the information to MED3000.

The computers, which the township received in December, came from a partnership between MED3000 and a software company in Texas.

The township's contract with MED3000 increased by 2.5 percent this year to accommodate the new devices, which are provided through the billing company.

According to the contract, the township will receive full replacement of the hardware if devices are broken in the field.

"The chief and I calculated that increase to be basically a pass-through," Rupp said. "So when we calculate it, if we had purchased the stuff straight out, the cost for us would have been the same as what the increase was."

The other fire departments involved in the Metropolitan Emergency Communications Center have similar agreements in place, he said.

Hoovler said it would take a few months to see how the more efficient billing system would help the department's operating fund.

In 2009, the fire department collected $306,363.08 in bills. So far this year, it has collected $74,416.98.

Hoovler said the department averages about $25,000 each month in bills, which are sent to residents from outside the township and New Albany who have to be transported to the hospital.

Residents of the township and the village are billed through their insurance companies.

"We should know soon how the billing part goes, but I think it will take a few months to evaluate," Hoovler said. "I don't anticipate any decline at all."

gmartineau@thisweeknews.com