EMS moving out of its adolescence

(Yes, I know it’s been awhile. I’m sorry. It’s been busy around here.)

“We are moving out of our EMS adolescence.”

This said by Brent Myers, the medical director of the Wake County EMS System in North Carolina. He also argues that EMS will soon be data-and-research driven instead of responders just “doing their best” and that being the acceptable norm.

“What we used to do is respond and do the best we could do.” Now? We are starting to collect data to show what works, what doesn’t — and, more importantly, why these things work and don’t work. It used to be that doing the “best we could” meant we really had no idea what we were doing, or why we were doing it most of the time. However, as we have this data and as education improves, we understand physiology and what we’re doing and how it impacts the body. We understand how and why this drug will help this patient and how it might help this next patient based upon their symptoms, even if it’s not specifically labeled for that usage (of course, we would call for orders for that type of thing before doing it — but we’re learning to think outside of with this research, data and education).

Dr. Myers also emphasizes that quality should be measured, not speed. In previous years, the mantra used to be “drive real fast to the call, load ’em up real fast, drive real fast to the hospital and drop ’em off.” Now, there are so many different things that we can do for the patients, an ambulance is practically a mobile emergency room…at least what you can cram inside of a 9×6 foot box. While response times are important, Dr. Myers explains that the importance is often over-exaggerated for EMS because the lives of citizens should not be put at risk for a “customer service score.” (And even then, on most of the high-priority calls, the fire department is dispatched [at least in my area] and because of their greater presence can arrive quicker and begin providing initial life-saving interventions.) Aside from the citizens, those of us in EMS (or in public safety) should not be wanting to put our lives unnecessarily at risk, either.

All of this to say, look for big changes to come to the EMS world in the next few years. It should be exciting to see what will happen in this growing field.

If you want to read more about Brent Myers’ speech at EMS Today, click here.