The History of BioTel

BioTel is short for Biomedical Telemetry. "Bio" refers to a relationship with life, and "telemetry" refers to the transmission of data other than voice by means of radio.

BioTel began operations on January 3, 1975, when UT Southwestern cardiologist Drs. James Atkins and Erwin Thal, along with the leadership of Dallas Fire-Rescue, developed and implemented a new paramedic training program. These newly-minted paramedics required rapid access to a physician or nurse for medical direction and consultation, which was provided by resident physicians and staff nurses in the BioTel radio room at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

Dallas Fire-Rescue (known then as the Dallas Fire Department) was the first group to use BioTel. DFD utilized 128 paramedics, in MICUs then staffed with 1 paramedic and 1 EMT-Basic.

BioTel was initially located in a Parkland Medicine ER treatment room, and back then they had just 2 radios. At first, physicians from specific areas like medicine, OB/Gyn, surgery/trauma took calls. Cardiology fellows began taking calls from BioTel, but only for medical emergencies (non-surgery/trauma or OB/Gyn). The cardiologists would sometimes spend the night taking calls as well as monitoring Holter cardiac monitors.

BioTel is one of several centralized medical control entities in this area. BioTel differs from these other entities because it provides 24 hour-a-day online medical control in addition to offline medical control. This means that a paramedic can speak with a BioTel nurse, paramedic or physician whenever they need to, and speak with a BioTel professional who has been trained in the BioTel protocols.

BioTel moved from its location in the old Parkland hospital to the new Parkland Hospital on Wednesday, August 19, 2015


"BioTel" refers both to the EMS system in the Dallas area, in which an organized network of EMS providers all function under the same set of medical treatment guidelines as well as the BioTel radio room that provides on-line medical direction for the paramedics in the BioTel system.

The BioTel EMS system includes 11 transporting fire departments in Dallas county:

Dallas Fire-Rescue
Desoto Fire-Rescue
Duncanville FD
Garland FD
Highland Park DPS
Hutchins FD
Irving FD
Lancaster FD
Mesquite FD
Sunnyvale DPS
University Park FD

Additionally, The BioTel EMS system provides medical direction for the Cockrell Hill Fire Department and on-line medical control for Acadian Ambulance.

The BioTel online medical control room at Parkland is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by an RN. A second person, either an RN or a paramedic, is scheduled for peak hours.

An EMS-trained faculty member of UT Southwestern is either on duty in the Parkland emergency department or immediately available for contact. All emergency medicine faculty receive orientation to the BioTel Treatment Guidelines, allowing them to provide medical direction or oversee residents as needed. EMS faculty members will bring emergency medicine residents on duty with them into BioTel to provide online medical control training.”

The most frequent requests for BioTel consultation:

1. Complex medical cases
2. Field determination of death
3. Destination decision-making
4. Patient Refusal documentation
5. Medical-legal issues
6. Social patient issues

BioTel also assists outside air medical and ground EMS service providers with critical information regarding the emergency care and transport of EMS patients.

BioTel has matured from being a service that only provided online medical direction to a sophisticated EMS program that serves as a critical resource for EMS providers in North Texas. BioTel assists with the conduct of EMS research and provides hospital notifications for critical trauma, burn, acute coronary syndrome, and acute stroke patients.