Future of EMS Compass Discussed at Steering Committee Meeting

Leaders of performance improvement initiative joined by national stakeholder groups in San Diego

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In January, the EMS Compass Steering Committee met with a dozen national organizations to discuss the status of the initiative and the future of EMS Compass. Much of the conversation focused on prioritizing performance measures for development as well as how to keep the initiative sustainable at the conclusion of the cooperative agreement between NHTSA, which is funding the initiative, and the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO).

A packed room of leaders and stakeholders discussed the goals that EMS Compass set out to achieve and reflected on their progress thus far. The group emphasized that in setting priorities, EMS Compass should focus on measures that improve patient care, rather than those that address accountability or public reporting, for example.

The group acknowledged that there isn’t enough time or funds to construct every possible measure, but if the stakeholders create a repeatable process for creating and evaluating performance measures, then the EMS community can continue to design additional measures after this year, extending the longevity of the initiative.

Alex Garza, MD, MPH, a member of the EMS Compass Steering Committee and chair of the initiative’s newly created Evidence Review Group, emphasized the importance of having these measures, not just for performance improvement but also to demonstrate to the community the value of EMS.

"In order to prove your value, you have to show it. To show it, you have to measure it," he said. The association representatives at the meeting agreed that future measures should be prioritized by the clinical importance of the measure, its feasibility and usefulness, and its acceptance in the EMS community.

Garza also shared that the Evidence Review Group plans to conduct a review of the scientific literature for the clinical areas where performance measures are being developed to ensure that the measures support evidence-based patient care. Members of the Evidence Review Group will include EMS physicians from the NASEMSO Medical Directors Council, providers and other experts from the EMS community.

During the meeting, members discussed creating a culture of improvement in EMS so that the measures are actually used. "Having developed the measure is just the first step. The huge lift is developing the culture of quality improvement within EMS," said Howard Backer, MD, MPH, a member of the Steering Committee and director of the California EMS Authority.

Throughout the day, organization representatives and EMS Compass members also talked about the initiative’s role in the broader picture of EMS data. Noah Smith, the EMS Compass project manager for the NHTSA Office of EMS, put it simply when he said that EMS Compass and the National EMS Information System (NEMSIS) "do not exist without each other." He described EMS Compass quality measures as a natural extension of NEMSIS, in which the standardized data collected by EMS agencies around the country are used to help them understand their current systems and improve patient care.

The next Steering Committee meeting is scheduled to take place in Bethesda, Md., in April in conjunction with the NASEMSO Spring Meeting. For details on the meeting and other up-to-date information on EMS Compass, sign up for the EMS Compass newsletter.

EMS Compass will have a big presence with a 3-day track at EMS Today this month in Baltimore. Session highlights at the conference include:

  • Wednesday, February 24 from 8:00am ‐ 5:00pm
    EMS Compass Town Hall Meeting:
    How Performance Measures Could Transform EMS
  • Wednesday, February 24 from 2:30pm ‐ 3:30pm
    Benchmarking Measures
  • Thursday, February 25 from 8:00am ‐ 9:00am
    Proving We Make a Difference: Why Every EMS Practitioner Needs to Understand the Value of Data and Performance measures
  • Friday, February 26 from10:15am ‐ 11:45am
    A Guide for Using Performance Measures: Case Studies from the Real World