EMS Compass: The Missing Link in EMS

Hardly a week goes by without hearing about providers feeling left out in the planning of the futures of their agencies and the future of EMS in general. It’s true, some providers will never be happy, that is the nature of humans at large and it is present in any profession. Yet, not everyone is jaded, and many do have a point of not having had a voice in the coming change and development of EMS as we grow up. That is, until now.

The EMS Compass initiative is being led by The National Association of EMS Officials (NASEMSO) and financed by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop EMS performance measures over the next few years. Part of their plan is to invite all stakeholders (providers, managers, agencies, government) to participate via direct suggestion during the Call for Measures this month, informational and public meetings, and transparent communication via direct access to key players.

Leaders don't necessarily need a title.
Leaders don’t necessarily need a title.

What is a performance measure?

Performance measures are common in other industries and have been used in medical practice, but not traditionally in EMS. Performance measures enable providers, management, and government agencies to track and improve performance to benefit patients and communities. Some of these measures will be clinical in nature, but operations, safety, and business/ financial aspects are also included as all of these are needed for well rounded agencies and further development of a well rounded industry.

Performance measures don’t have to be complex or convoluted. In actuality they are quite succinct. For example it is widely accepted that patients with cardiac chest pain should take an aspirin. The performance measure for that event would read: All patients who have chest pain of a cardiac nature should receive aspirin. This would then be documented via charting we already complete and reviewed later for quantification. Many things we already do such as standards for STEMI, TXA for Stroke patients, or even trauma protocols were founded in related medical professions performance measures.

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Why bother?

-We will be contributing to the development of these standards for our profession, who better to do so? Historically, government at large has not been the best at recognizing what we do and our level of importance (please see “Ambulance Extenders”)

-We already contribute data via NEMSIS for data collection in the EMS industry, this process contributes to data collection and provides information for where we currently stand so we can continue to improve and move forward

-The measures are evidence based. We are Emergency MEDICAL Services and should be practicing medicine in the way that other medical professions do, with evidence not today’s whimsical idea on how to get “cool toys”.

-Provides means of measuring long term performance in our industry so when the next generation of providers arrive, they can build on the foundation we have laid.

-Currently, if your agency bills, you are paid for service whether the patient is treated well clinically and will have an improved outcome or pleased with how they were treated, Medicare will pay for the transport. In the future, in conjunction with The Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) we will be paid for the outcome: clinically accurate care, patient satisfaction, etc. Hospitals have been preparing for this for the past few years, we should not be naive to think the government will not try to limit our payments.

-Medicare is encouraging other insurance companies to follow suit on requiring a higher standard of care for payment for EMS services.

-Can lead to better provider compensation, improved provider safety and health, and better recognition of the job we do and love.

Obviously, the above is a very simplified over view of what EMS Compass is and will achieve. I have included links below for your information. There is a great webinar you can access on demand that explains how the process works and the history of data collection in EMS. I also included links to the Call for Measures that is live until the end of May, so get your measures in. I also included links to some other blogs and podcasts that have been talking about EMS Compass recently.

Until a standard is set industry wide, EMS as an profession will flounder. EMS needs to define acceptable standards of care on an industry wide level, the lowest common denominator can no longer be our standard if we are to grow into the industry we desire. Much of what is described above are things we already do, we are just organizing and tracking it now. We must to take ownership of our profession before someone else, who has no idea what we really do, tells us how to do it. You can be a part of the future of EMS on a larger level than you ever imagined by contributing to the call for measures by May 31, 2015.

The EMS Compass Site (you can access the Call for Measures and informational webinar here)

The EMS Garage – The EMS Compass

Inside EMS Podcast – How the EMS Compass Initiative will create industry standards

Medic SBK- EMS In The New Decade – The EMS Compass

EMS Day on the Hill 2014

1972281_10152289199047290_1229167034_nLast week I had the awesome experience of attending the 5th Annual EMS Day on the Hill sponsored by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians in Washington D.C. EMS Day on the Hill is an opportunity to educate our representatives at the federal level of government about EMS and the challenges we face on a daily basis as providers and managers. 190 EMS providers from various services and of all different certification levels attended and completed 242 meetings with federal legislators or their staff this year.

Before you get excited or think, “I don’t know anything about politics.” The NAEMT people have taken care of all of that. About a week before the event, they sent me an email with a basic schedule and information on the bills that are currently in progress. The evening before we went to Capitol Hill, they held a briefing reviewing information on the current bills, the atmosphere in Washington, and other recent events that might affect conversations the next day during our meetings. Along with our delegation meeting schedules, NAEMT provided us with briefing sheets on the bills at hand and any other pertinent information like phone numbers to people at the event if we needed help and a map to get around Capitol Hill. They also made packets for us to leave with representatives or their staff for their review after our scheduled meetings. We were seated by state delegations and after the briefing there was a networking event so we could get to know the other members of our delegations and discuss our plans for the next day. Everyone was friendly and happy to answer any questions.

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Group Photo of 2014 Attendees

The next morning, my delegation met in the hotel lobby and migrated to our first meeting. Our delegation was a mix of veterans and novices to lobbying. Those that had participated before lead the way at the first few meetings until the rest of us were comfortable to take part as well. The staff that we met with were all attentive and interested in what we had to present. One staffer even let us know that she learned something new from us about EMS and how we provide service and the challenges we face in doing so. Many were aware of the changing climate of EMS and how the Affordable Care Act might affect us in the future. The bills NAEMT presented during these meetings were: The Field EMS Bill and Medical Preparedness Allowable Use Act. We also promoted The EMS Caucus.

While going to Capitol Hill and participating in our nation’s government and being able to walk through the halls of history that make our country great was exciting, meeting fellow providers that believe and continue to work toward the future of our profession was even more amazing. My hope for the future of EMS was renewed via these conversations and I gained new insights into possible solutions for recurring issues that affect our profession. There is momentum and direction at the top, the rest of EMS needs to unite and place the power of our voices and votes behind this movement if we are ever going to progress and become a true profession.

I learned many things in the few days I spent in Washington, chief among them that I still have much more to learn. EMS providers need to put aside certifications, department affiliations, and petty differences if we are going to advance as a whole profession. Others see our division and don’t take us seriously because of it. Lobbying for EMS is not just one day a year. Speak to and educate your local and state officials about what we do and what our needs are, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If you have the opportunity to attend EMS Day on the Hill next year or at any time in the future, jump on it! You will be glad you did!