CDC, NHTSA Partner on Use of EMS Data to Improve Public Health

Researchers at US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention turn to EMS data to help find solutions for public health problems

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When public health officials and researchers learn about the data EMS providers collect every day, they are often shocked—and excited. The information collected in electronic patient care records, computer-aided dispatch systems and other sources offers rich material for officials trying to address public health issues ranging from opioid overdoses to vehicle crashes to stroke and much more.

At the federal level, a partnership between the NHTSA Office of EMS and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now making it easier for CDC researchers to access, analyze and interpret national EMS data.

Thanks to the widespread adoption of a universal data standard created as part of the National EMS Information System, or NEMSIS, states send patient care data to a National EMS Database. That database is now available through the CDC Data Hub, which helps CDC researchers across the organization access health information from multiple sources in order to gain a clearer picture of today’s most critical public health problems.

The agreement between NHTSA and the CDC allows researchers to access national EMS data from 2012 through 2016, with more recent data expected to be available soon. While the records do not include specific geographic location information, several states have expressed interest in allowing CDC researchers to analyze the data by state. Having this resource may help state public health and EMS officials who have limited resources to conduct research and fully analyze all the information available in their EMS records.

The potential of EMS data to help public health analysts was evident by the interest in a recent webinar the CDC Data Hub held, which was attended by dozens of researchers. Some of the topics they expressed interest in examining more closely included EMS time intervals for stroke patients, 911 calls during major disasters and the opioid crisis.

Most recently, Mark Faul, PhD, with the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, co-authored a paper with the NHTSA Office of EMS’s Jeremy Kinsman and researchers at the National Registry of EMTs. The study, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, examined naloxone administrations in the United States from 2012 to 2016.

“EMS data are useful for identifying at-risk populations, such as those surviving an opioid overdose, and could assist in meeting the challenge of decreasing the mortality impact of the opioid epidemic,” the authors wrote.

Read the entire article here.

Many local EMS services are also finding that public health officials and others in their communities benefit from having access to EMS data to examine some of the same public health problems. Learn more about the issue by visiting ems.gov.