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Drowning in Information … Starved for Knowledge

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Greg Mears, MD, Medical Director for ZOLL Medical, presented valuable information to the U.S. metropolitan medical directors today during day #2 of their “Eagle Creek” Retreat in Dallas, Texas.

Dr. Mears, former EMS Director for the State of North Carolina and an expert on EMS data collection, delivery and documentation, told the 60 medical directors in attendance that EMS is currently in a state of evolution. He said, “As an industry, we are maturing from a data and performance improvement perspective.”

He pointed out that it is being driven by 5 key organizational tenants:
1. EMS is the practice of medicine;
2. EMS operations are important to the practice of medicine;
3. Outcomes are difficult to measure but important to our future success;
4. EMS is not an island but a bridge into "systems of care"; and
5. Medical devices and software are now a part of the healthcare team.

Mears emphasized to the group of EMS medical leaders that, as National EMS Information System (NEMSIS), software, medical devices and wireless network connectivity have become commonplace, we have more data than ever before.

The question now is how do we manage that data and turn it into useful information, knowledge and wisdom?

A vision of this data driven future is being driven by several factors.  These include:

  • Improved user interfaces and data entry technologies;
  • The evolution of software and driven decision support for EMS operations and clinical care;
  • The integration of a patient's health record across systems of care through "health information exchange";
  • Assuring that patients and EMS agencies are empowered and protected in the use of EMS data; and
  • The development of reporting standardized reporting solutions that simplify data analysis, process measurement and performance improvement.

In the future, as EMS data is applied in operational and clinical performance improvement initiatives, Mears stressed that our environment and culture will change and noted that EMS will be more focused on the following:

  • Measuring the "how" that leads to the "what";
  • "Healthy" information exchange;
  • An atmosphere of continuous measurement;
  • An atmosphere of continuous improvement; and
  • A focus on communication at the system of care, leadership, operations and "hands on" patient care.

He proudly reported that his company (ZOLL Medical Corporation) is leading the way with a revolutionary reporting system known as Insight Analytics, a free reporting system that integrates data across all ZOLL products. Insight Analytics has a lean dashboard-like presentation, yet allows the user to drill down into patient specific data. It empowers performance improvement, benchmarking, quality service delivery and patient care.

As an example, he provided a link to the Insight Analytics STEMI Dashboard:

ZOLL also recently publicly pledged the sharing of patient data to reduce preventable deaths and encouraged other industry leaders to join the medical device pledge to share patient data in an effort to “stem the rising tide of unwarranted fatalities at U.S. hospitals.”

By breaking down the walls of data ownership and making medical devices interoperable for the sharing of patient data, ZOLL officials say that device manufacturers can open the gateway for clinicians and nurses to access real-time information.

For example, if EMS services are able to transmit 12-lead ECG data to a receiving hospital in advance of a cardiac arrest patient’s arrival, better patient care decisions can be made fasterand with accuracy. This often requires data sharing between a ZOLL defibrillator and a non-ZOLL data system or vice versa.

According to ZOLL’s CEO, Richard A. Packer, making this cooperative pledge at the Patient Safety, Science & Technology Summit earlier this month in Laguna Beach, Calif., said ZOLL products have always been open-architecture and, as a leader in pre-hospital data systems, making data available is a no brainer.

"It’s all about connecting our devices to everyone’s devices to help improve patient care," Packer added, "We view data sharing as an incremental tool that we can use to try to expand the openness we’ve always had and to work within the health care system in the interest of patient safety.”

ZOLL provides software development kits for all its products that allow programmers to access data collected by ZOLL products for a range of uses, but issues arise in integrating that data into other clinical systems. Barriers exist when ZOLL tries to integrate its data with systems from other companies in the emergency medical marketplace whose systems are not open-architecture and keep their data inaccessible.

Packer says, "Hopefully, others will recognize the value to patient outcomes and take this pledge to make the physiological parameters displayed in their companies’ products available to anyone or any entity that wants to use it to improve patient care."

The medicals directors at the Eagle Creek Retreat were impressed with ZOLL’s willingness to share data and open up vital communications pathways between EMS units and hospitals irrespective of different software platforms.

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