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Introduction

This special supplement to JEMS was developed to help you ensure that your data system is properly designed to communicate with components for dispatch, hospitals, monitoring, billing and quality review in a secure and easy way.

As the patient population grows, your agency must also grow and implement technology that can track, bill and account for each action and service you provide. Your agency will continue to be asked to prove that new treatment modalities and techniques are effective and your personnel are meeting acceptable clinical standards. More importantly, physician and administrative researchers will need your assistance to determine what response time parameters are correct to employ, what care is necessary, and at what time.

Are we accurate and timely in the completion of our patient care reports? Are reports submitted to our billing company in an acceptable timeframe to keep revenue flowing into the agency to help maintain and grow operations in a down environment?

This supplement addresses all these needs. But, in upholding JEMS’ reputation of keeping you ahead of trends, legislation and regulations, this supplement is also presented to alert you to new requirements for data collection and management that we see on the horizon and give you ample time to prepare.

Bill Atkinson, PhD, EMT-P, president and CEO of the WakeMed Health and Hospitals in Raleigh, N.C., is a JEMS editorial board member and key adviser to JEMS on hospital/prehospital interfacing. Atkinson serves on the American Hospital Association’s Task Force on Future Reimbursement, which is tasked with reviewing and advising on requirements proposed in the Obama administration’s health-care plan and other insertions and changes made by Congress.

After recent health-care reform task force meetings, Dr. Atkinson noted that some of the proposed major changes, such as bundled payments, will likely have an impact on many phases of health care related to transport and data systems, and significantly change some elements of the EMS reimbursement model. Because the language is vague and doesn’t specifically mention EMS in the official policy process, Atkinson says, "EMS could be caught in a very wide net without even knowing a fishing trip is underway."

In particular, he points out that major changes are anticipated in health-care information systems. Hospitals will be required to collect and maintain patient data in what is termed "meaningful use" to be eligible for federal reimbursement upgrades and to eventually avoid penalties. What this means is that hospitals will be required to connect to all ports where a patient connects to their system. Experts believe this will include the electronic linkage between the hospital and EMS agencies. For agencies not ready for the total shift to the electronic world, Atkinson forsees significant economic downgrades—and even policy violation issues—coming over the next several years.

So, it’s very likely that the standards for all health-care providers will be shifting. If the guidelines shift for hospitals and physicians, the "community standard" will change, and this standard will automatically be applied to EMS, as has often occurred in the past.

Use this supplement as a guide to building or enhancing your electronic patient care report and data management system. Do it not just because EMS/hospital interfacing will probably become mandatory soon, but because it’s the right thing to do for your service and your patients.

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