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Tennessee Advanced Communications Network expands to include state hospital systems

Feb. 16, 2023, 10:19 AM


by Craig Boerner

The Tennessee Advanced Communications Network (TACN) is inviting Vanderbilt University Medical Center to be an early adopter as a hospital system integrating TACN into its existing network of emergency providers for redundancy communications in the event of a disaster, such as a tornado, where internet and phone services are compromised.

VUMC is the state’s first health care system to join TACN, which is managed by the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security. Other hospital systems are anticipated to join in the near future.

TACN is providing the radio tower connectivity infrastructure to VUMC. In November 2022, VUMC purchased 500 TACN-capable radios that will be strategically deployed throughout the main campus, and to all its regional hospital facilities.

“It ensures patient safety in regards to transporting patients,” said Devin Bunch, MMHC, RN, director of Emergency Operations in the Division of Emergency Preparedness. “The main VUMC campus is a hub where regional hospitals typically send high acuity patients, recognizing that person needs a higher level of care. This ensures that any gaps in communications are closed.”

VUMC’s LifeFlight transport, a regional EMS system utilizing both air and ground ambulances, also utilizes the TACN radio system. LifeFlight completes approximately 12,000 patient transports per year, according to Jeff Gray, the longtime VUMC LifeFlight Manager of Emergency Communications, who will now be working as the director of TACN in his new role.

“We utilized TACN radios when the 2020 Christmas bombing occurred in downtown Nashville because the explosion took out the cellular phone infrastructure,” Gray said. “Fortunately, we already had permission as Vanderbilt to utilize these statewide radio frequencies. We distributed radios to our ambulances, so we were able to continue to communicate seamlessly.”

VUMC has since added regional hospitals in Bedford County, Tullahoma and Wilson County that will utilize TACN radios for redundant communication.

“The TACN radio system will enable EMS agencies in Tennessee to communicate directly with emergency departments and physicians over much greater distances. This is vital due to health care access challenges in many rural areas,” Gray said.

“The exciting part about this is that we have already been working with the public safety agencies — EMS, police, fire — across Tennessee. Everybody is realizing the value of getting on the system so they can talk to each other. Disasters know no boundaries,” he added.

“We are building the infrastructure so that, in an emergency, we can turn a switch and have open lines of communication to speak with our emergency departments at each facility,” Bunch said. “We want to ensure that we are keeping our patient access and safety of our hospitals at the forefront.”

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