EMS Innovation Project Holds Stakeholder Meetings in CA, NY

National Steering Committee Meeting Scheduled for September 21 in Washington, DC

How can EMS better disseminate and implement innovative delivery models, while overcoming persistent regulatory, financial and technological barriers? Stakeholders from around the nation tackled this question in separate meetings in San Diego and New York City in May.

They came together as part of the new collaborative project, “Promoting Innovation in EMS,” supported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of EMS, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health & Human Services. The University of California San Diego (UCSD) Health System and Mount Sinai Health System in New York City are leading the project with project co-directors James Dunford, Jr., MD, professor emeritus at UCSD School of Medicine and EMS medical director for the city of San Diego and Kevin Munjal, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The effort will culminate with the development of a national framework tool to provide guidance and foster better, more efficient delivery of health care within EMS across the country.

“Our hope is to engage with a diverse group of stakeholders to create a pathway for the widespread implementation of best practices and delivery system reforms in emergency medical services across the U.S.,” Munjal said. “Innovations can be big or small, long- or short-term. The idea is to make it just a little easier for EMS to change and improve.”

At the stakeholder meetings, leaders of innovative EMS initiatives briefly discussed some of the barriers they have faced. In San Diego, some of the speakers included representatives of organizations chosen to participate in the California community paramedic pilot program.

Experts have long recognized that EMS could serve as a vital link in a coordinated health care system focused on population health management by helping to identify and modify risk, assess and facilitate treatment of chronic conditions and improve coordination of care for acute complaints.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for EMS to merge imagination, sound medicine and health information technology to improve care and lower cost,” Dunford said. “Tomorrow’s innovations will likely improve domestic preparedness, increase patient access to care, decrease health care costs and improve community resilience.”

Dunford added that novel urban and rural EMS programs, using terms such as mobile integrated healthcare and community paramedicine, have begun filling gaps in systems of care.

As EMS agencies strive to innovate within the current infrastructure, noted Munjal, they face challenges from existing laws, regulations, even fixed mind-sets. He said the project team is aware that regulatory bodies must balance their desire to enable progress and innovation with their obligation to protect the public’s health and safety and maintain a statewide EMS system.

Because EMS is regulated largely at the state level, state EMS officials will be vital stakeholders in the project, which aims to provide model frameworks that state and local health systems can use to navigate legal, financial, and regulatory barriers when testing innovative EMS delivery models.

The final deliverable will be a National Framework Document that will be broadly representative and thoroughly vetted to be a useful tool to provide a pathway to harness the full potential of EMS.

The Promoting Innovation in EMS National Steering Committee will meet in Washington, DC, on September 21 at the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Barbara Jordan Conference Center. Members of the EMS community are welcome to attend the meeting, where project leaders will present the results of an online survey and the regional stakeholder meetings, and facilitate a discussion about obstacles to innovation and how to create an environment that safely promotes innovation.