Creating an Information-Driven Future for EMS

EMS leaders report on obstacles and opportunities confronting the EMS profession’s efforts to become truly data-driven in a new whitepaper released by the Office of EMS

A new report highlights the importance of taking the EMS profession from one that simply collects data to one that turns those data into meaningful information that drives decision-making.

Issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Office of EMS, the report, Beyond EMS Data Collection: Envisioning an Information-Driven Future , outlines some of the findings from a summit convened by NHTSA earlier this year and attended by more than 30 leaders of national organizations, as well as federal officials and industry experts. John Becknell, PhD, facilitated the discussion and chaired a ten-member panel that wrote the report.

The final report is not intended to serve as a consensus document, but rather a summary of the findings of the panel through its research and discussions with the EMS community. It will also serve as an important resource for the profession, for NHTSA and for the recently launched initiative to write a new EMS Agenda for the Future.

“We’ve made great strides in EMS data collection over the last decade. But it’s vital we continue that momentum to make sure we’re using the information—whether that’s to improve the care we deliver, to ensure the safety of our patients and providers, or to guide public health and prevention efforts,” said Noah Smith, EMS Specialist with the Office of EMS and member of the project committee. “This report asks important questions that we as a profession will need to answer.”

During the summit, attendees ranging from software vendors and medical directors to government officials and association leaders summarized numerous challenges and opportunities for data collection, integration and use at the national, state and local levels. The bulk of the report, though, focuses on envisioning an information-driven future and what is needed—from both people and technology—to turn the vision into reality.

The paper’s authors identified four steps that EMS needs to take as a profession in order to become truly information driven:

  • Emphasize the value and importance of information
  • Recognize the role of information at all levels of sophistication
  • Highlight widespread application of information within EMS agencies and across all components of healthcare and public safety
  • Clarify the role and purpose of national and statewide data collection efforts

In addition, the report stressed the importance of creating an “information culture” in EMS, one that would replace the “default culture... of gut-reaction, best-guess and imitation of others.” The information culture would be based on the following priorities:

  • Industry-wide prioritization of information
  • Strong motivation, relevancy and demonstrated improvement
  • Leaders who champion the use of information
  • A data- and information-savvy workforce
  • A continuous feedback loop

Also recognized by the report’s authors is the need for continually improving information systems that meet the diverse needs of local, regional and national EMS systems that can be integrated with other data systems and are easy to use and do not interfere with the provider’s ability to care for the patient.

The findings in this report are not intended to be the end of the conversation about data use in EMS, but the beginning. The full report is available online.