It is an exciting time in EMS system development. So many external forces have driven us over the years. In the 70s we were born; during the 80s we focused on operations and their impact on patient care; during the 90s came the development of trauma centers and the beginning of “Systems of Care”; during the 2000s, we focused on data systems, billing and high-performance implementations.
The decade leading up to 2020 will continue to build on these foundations, with an increased need to show our ability to provide quality service and patient care at a reasonable cost or value.
To be competitive in this new affordable healthcare model, EMS must expand its focus beyond individual patients to the health and wellness of the community. This integration with healthcare systems, focusing on the needs of both the patient and the community, will determine our success and our outcomes.
Integrative EMS service delivery also changes our historic operational focus, from managing multiple patient-centric events—most of which require transport—to a community-centric approach, where patients are managed based on their true clinical and social needs, often without transport.
In this new paradigm, there are five keys to our success. These five things represent both the dogma for the EMS 2020 movement and an organizational approach for success.
1. EMS is the practice of medicine. EMS is much more than a friend of the community or a ride to the hospital; it is the practice of medicine. We are practicing medicine and have a responsibility to provide high-quality care derived from evidence-based performance measures and outcomes.
2. EMS operations often can’t be separated from the medicine. Other areas of healthcare are just now beginning to figure this out, including trauma, STEMI, and stroke systems of care. We have known it from the beginning. EMS must continue to evaluate, evolve and integrate our operations with our clinical care and our community healthcare systems. That is the only way to maximize our impact on outcomes.
3. Outcomes are difficult to measure, but critical to our success. There is a saying, “In God we trust, all others bring data.” EMS is the most complex component of healthcare but that complexity is what allows performance improvement and outcome measurement to be successful in driving our future. NEMSIS, CAD systems, electronic medical devices and our early adoption of electronic health records are incredible resources we are just beginning to ride as we take off on this journey.
4. EMS is not an island; it’s the bridge. EMS was the first medical specialty to realize that healthcare cannot be successful if delivered in silos. The future is in “systems of care.” We are the bridge to success in performance-driven healthcare across communities.
5. Software and devices are a part of the healthcare team. This is a “Terminator” type of thought, but the machines have evolved. We are in the middle of a paradigm shift. Devices were once tools in our toolbelt we used as needed in the provision of patient care. Devices are now much more that that—they are now a member of our healthcare team. They provide information, guidance, insight and a level of intelligence directly connected to positive outcomes.
This special supplement to JEMS was designed with great thought and input from industry leaders. Its goal is to provide an overview of how technology and data touch each of the components of an EMS system of care. Learn why and how the incorporation of data and technology, as a member of your healthcare team, is critical to success as we move toward EMS 2020.