Help Researchers Learn about Patients’ Social Needs

The photo shows the hood of an orange ambulance.
Photo/Adam Mason

Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine are asking emergency medical services (EMS) personnel who work primarily in 911 response to take a five- to seven-minute online survey. Survey respondents will have the option to enter a drawing to win a $50 Amazon gift card.

This study, Social Needs in the Pre-Hospital Setting (SNIPS), seeks to understand EMS providers’ knowledge of their patients’ social needs.

Experts generally agree that the environmental conditions people live in, known as social determinants of health, play an important role in people’s overall well-being. However, most efforts to address these needs have traditionally taken place in primary care. EMS and the emergency department often see the greatest consequences of social determinants of health, including patients who cannot afford medication, have no transportation or insurance, struggle with untreated substance or mental health issues, and rely on EMS for help with basic tasks because they have no support at home. Social determinants can cause or increase the severity of many chronic conditions and create stress that worsens mental health. For example, lack of access to healthy food can lead to diabetes or heart disease.

In this survey, EMS providers will be asked to share their understanding of patients’ needs and how training and resources can help providers better serve their patients. The information learned from this survey will be used to improve EMS training with the goal reducing the number of unnecessary 911 calls and transports, especially by EMS super-utilizers, colloquially known as “frequent flyers.”

EMS personnel interested in participating in this online survey can get started by clicking this link. For questions about the study, please contact Daniel Berger at

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