Administration and Leadership, Communications & Dispatch, Documentation & Patient Care Reporting, Training

Making EMS More Effective & Efficient Through Technology

Issue 11 and Volume 38.

In order for any business to be considered successful, it must maintain a positive margin by maximizing revenue opportunities while ensuring efficient and effective operations that keep customers and employees coming back for more—and EMS is no different. By carefully choosing and properly implementing the latest technology, EMS organizations can become more effective and efficient.

While there are a variety of ways to achieve each of these goals, appropriately applied technology is one of the most important ingredients to leverage. Which technology is invested in and how it’s integrated into your organization to achieve a maximized return must be carefully weighed so you don’t come up short.

EMS technology

Photo Vu Vanh

Too often I see organizations spend significant time, energy, effort and money (TEEM) on a technology project that yields little gain. This is a tough lesson to learn, especially in today’s challenging fiscal environment. No matter where the technology in your organization is to be used, you must fully comprehend its intent, functionality and capabilities while also understanding what training is needed and what internal business processes, systems, workflows and cultures need to be attuned for the technology to be accepted by your workforce and customers. A failure to properly address each of these aspects could result in a rejected, improperly used system.

Proper due diligence on the new technology, manufacturer and the existing customer base; understanding the impacts on existing systems; and inclusion of staff from all areas touched by the new and existing systems as part of procurement and implementation processes are all considered best practices of new technology procurement. Just because a sales representative says their system can give you X% improvement or return doesn’t mean you will automatically get those results. Oftentimes, it takes considerable change to achieve the results vendor’s claim.

With this fundamental understanding about technology procurement in hand, let’s examine what best-in-class technology is being successfully leveraged by EMS agencies. The focus of this particular article will be to highlight lesser-known options that EMS agencies can use to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

Human Resources & Talent Acquisition
EMS is a service-oriented business and therefore its people and their talents are critical. Having the right people with the right attitudes and right behaviors that properly fit the culture of an organization are key ingredients for success. But how do you choose the right person for the job? Too often, EMS looks only at an individual’s clinical credentials and experience, thinking those are good predictors of success. Unfortunately, this can be far from accurate, and hiring staff with only this in mind results in higher turnover rates and wasted TEEM. What if there was a way to help predict an individual’s success based on the skills needed for the job and the attitudes and culture of the organization?

Industry and job function-specific research performed by industrial psychologists and behaviorists have found ways to stratify an individual’s potential success using various computer-based testing techniques that assess a candidate’s psychomotor abilities, behaviors and personality in order to help quantify that individual’s fit with the function of a particular job and culture of a particular agency. This quantification is then compared against the organization’s desired baseline to determine whether the candidate is a good fit. This, coupled with standardized behavioral interviewing techniques, helps organizations pick individuals with a mathematically-derived partiality for success—therefore reducing turnover as well as the TEEM needed for talent acquisition purposes. I’ve personally used these types of systems and have spoken with many other users of these types of systems, and I hear similar results: improved candidate hiring success, lower turnover, better customer satisfaction and better job satisfaction.

AIMS & Convergence Information Systems
Many EMS agencies manage their core business information system (IS) needs using computer-aided dispatching (CAD) systems, electronic patient care reporting (ePCR) systems and EMS billing systems. Although these systems are designed to manage EMS’s core mission, they often fall short on providing integrated support for other critical EMS IS functions.

I often see EMS services with a variety of homegrown Microsoft Access databases, Excel spreadsheets, Word documents or paper systems, all departmentally stove-piped with limited information integration or sharing. These systems are typically used to manage operational reporting and trending, clinical quality assurance/improvement, incident reporting, staff credentialing, scheduling, fleet maintenance, supply and inventory, training records, personnel records, and so on.

These manually derived systems might get the job done, but they’re highly inefficient due to non-integrated, compartmentalized data divided into limited-use states, redundant workflows, limited local-only (to the machine or network) functionality, lack of a common homogenized view of information and the requirement of significant manual staff time to maintain and use. A series of systems designed to solve this problem have been slowly making their way to market and are quickly gaining momentum because of their cloud-based ease of deployment and affordable pricing structures. I call these systems “Administrative Information Management Systems,” or AIMS for short.

These systems can handle many of your administrative IS functions using a Web-based interface that allows easy access from any Web-enabled machine, including mobile devices. This “unties” administrators and staff from their desks and also allows employees to access these systems on the go, from home or even while on duty in the EMS unit (if this type of access is available). These systems are typically built around some sort of core functionality (e.g., a scheduling system, computer-based training platform, or data homogenization and reporting systems), which have expanded to offer a variety of other highly useful functions and tools. Other offerings have recently come to market without core functionality, and are designed to flexibly solve most (if not all) AIMS needs.

We have also seen recent entrants emerge in this space that claim to “do it all” (EMS IS system convergence): AIMS plus core business IS (e.g., CAD, ePCR and billing) all via a hybrid cloud/enterprise-based solution, again using an inexpensive subscription-based business model, which puts these tools well into the reach of smaller EMS providers and could stand to disrupt the EMS Core IS industry if it catches on, but it’s too early to tell if these types of systems will be successful.

While there are many other categories of useful IS tools used by EMS agencies out there to discuss, these two particular categories often get overlooked in literature or at trade shows. But when procured and implemented properly, they can provide a good return on the investment and should not be overlooked when moving your agency to the next level of integration, efficiency and effectiveness.