Perspective: EHRs, HIEs must collaborate with EMS for patient safety

Although three-quarters of U.S. states have some kind of health information exchange system, with many labs, hospitals and clinics participating in them, one significant piece of the healthcare puzzle is sitting out — emergency medical services, such as ambulances, and their access to critical data.

"Data is derived from local EMS providers contributing information to their respective state healthcare registries (generally managed by Health and Human Services in some form), ultimately to be used for analysis to improve care provided by paramedics and emergency medical technicians on the street," wrote Kurt Steward, PhD, vice president of Infor, in a post on EMSWorld. "However, despite the maturity of the model and its contribution to better patient outcomes through research and analysis over the long term, short-term issues persist."

According to Dr. Steward, EMS organizations must move beyond data collection and reporting toward becoming a formalized part of patient data sharing. He suggests that EMS services may be so often overlooked in the HIE equation because they are one of the smaller healthcare costs, or its voice may not be as well represented in the healthcare conversation.

"Ultimately, EMS is healthcare, and EMS agencies can provide tremendous value to the HIE equation because they are often the conduit between spokes in the giant healthcare wheel," Dr. Steward wrote.

Dr. Steward outlines the following three directives that EMS providers can enable now:

  • Paramedics need real-time access to patient information contained in EHRs, such as health conditions and allergies, before they arrive at the scene of an emergency.
  • EMS agencies must be able to share data during disaster situations to ensure patients are receiving optimal care in life and death scenarios.
  • Equip new generations of paramedics, whose skills are expanded to include follow-up home visits after hospital discharge, with access to detailed patient information. 

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