It is an exciting time in EMS system development. So many external forces have driven us over the years.
Not that long ago, the dispatch center was just a room located in a basement or the back of an office, staffed by a person “trained” to answer a telephone and push a microphone button, with a data set generally gathered on a paper log with a pencil. Times have really changed. One needs look no further than the “Chain of Survival” to understand the importance of today’s dispatch center.
If a proposal by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is successful, by 2014, all new vehicles sold in the U.S. will be required to have event data recorders (“black boxes”) installed. In fact, a recent report by the New York Times estimated that this technology is already standard on 96 percent of all new cars and light duty trucks.1 In passenger vehicles, the event recorders will capture specific data to assist law enforcement in their investigation to determine culpability in crashes.
Bystander CPR is a critical link in the chain of survival.
One of the best ways to visualize the future in EMS is to imagine what would happen if we combined all of technology in existence (or in development) today to describe the “perfect EMS event”—one that brings together all of the complex EMS operations, clinical care and service delivery required for any patient scenario. Let’s give it a try … A motor vehicle crash (MVC) occurs.
It’s mid-evening on a busy night, and the radio crackles in the emergency department (ED): “General Hospital, this is Rescue 80, on the scene of a 76-year-old woman with right-sided weakness and facial droop. Her speech is slurred, and she appears confused. Her last time to be known normal was about 45 minutes ago, when she said to the family that she didn’t feel well and went to lie down. When they checked on her, they found her in the current condition. Her vital signs are: BP 175/90, pulse 88, respirations and pulse ox are normal.
EMS systems exist to provide high-quality care to the patients we serve. Therefore, one of the major goals of a state-of-the art EMS data system is to help ensure that the care you provide is meeting your standards; another goal is to help improve that care over time.
EMS systems have data, mountains of data. Most, however, are unsure how to use it outside of fairly standard resource deployment and clinical benchmarking. Often, the problem is data integration. Healthcare is delivered by many different providers in different locations. These are often described as spokes on a wheel, with the patient being the center, or hub.
This section of the supplement is about the EMS business and the systems that support it. No, it’s not!