During a disaster, patients are often transported out of the affected area. Health professionals need access to patient information to avoid medical errors, renew medication, and coordinate care whether they are treating evacuated patients or treating patients in an unfamiliar hospital, an alternate care site or a mobile field hospital.
EMS is an integral part of the health care system. Actions taken by EMS providers at the scene and enroute to the hospital affect outcomes, quality of care and patient satisfaction.
EMS providers need to know a patient’s medications, allergies, health conditions and end-of-life decisions immediately to direct their care and even prevent serious medication errors. Gathering that information from the patient, who may have an altered mental status, or a family member, who may not know everything, is not sufficient in an era when the facts are available electronically.
Community paramedicine programs rely on having access to patient information for good clinical decision-making, including using a patient’s physical, psychological and sociological history to determine the most appropriate care destination.
Alerting the hospital to the status of an incoming patient via a dashboard in the emergency department enables hospital staff to appropriately allocate resources and activate key care teams such as for a stroke, cardiac or trauma response. This can reduce time to treatment and improve outcomes.
Patient handoffs are known as high-risk events for medical error because information may be dropped or distorted as it is passed along. This can be mitigated by uploading written documentation on each phase of treatment into the patient’s medical record for access by all care providers, including EMS. This creates a thorough longitudinal patient record in a structured data format so it can be searched and aggregated to support better healthcare for each patient and better evaluation and improvement of the EMS system.
The more good data is collected on protocols and outcomes the stronger the case will be for the benefits and value of ensuring robust prehospital care capabilities in every community.
The payment model for healthcare is changing quickly – fee for service is being replaced by managed care, capitated payments, and shared savings models such as accountable care organizations. EMS must be positioned to be a full partner with other healthcare providers in the collection and meaningful use of data to demonstrate value.