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Thursday / September 23.

The Digital Health Opportunity: EMS Data Collection

As a paramedic, the cardiac arrest was my favorite call based on challenge alone. Cardiac arrests required a variety of hands-on skills, including EKG interpretation, medication administration, scene management, and the decision to transport or pronounce the patient.

Some of these calls would take as little as ten minutes; others required over thirty. But for every call that I ran, data collection had to take place.

Over the years, the trip sheet that paramedics and EMTs have to fill out after calls has slowly turned from a friendly report to a lengthy record. This requires them to gather increasingly more data, and capture it with a variety of confusing interfaces and marginal hardware.

Now that healthcare providers have the ability to digitally store data, more and more of it is being collected. NEMSIS, the organization that oversees the collection of EMS data at the national level, recently released a new set of data collection standards.

Prior to the release of the new standards, NEMSIS required EMS professionals to collect up to 346 different elements. That number has now jumped to 578.


More Data, Poorer Quality

Cardiac arrest patients have eighteen specific data points that can be collected, including who witnessed the arrest and the neurological outcome of the patient upon their discharge from the hospital.

Creating detailed reports from this data allows for evidence-based treatments and protocols that improve patient outcomes. Increasing the amount of data EMS professionals gather enables them to develop a more thorough and accurate chart, which in turn enhances the care that cardiac patients receive at the hospital.

But the growing number of data points that paramedics and EMTs have to collect has its drawbacks. When there are limited EMS personnel, increased data collection can lead to back-ups in documentation. As EMS professionals fall behind on their reports, accuracy can be lost, with vital details often being left out.


Improving Collection Methods

One way to improve the quality of the data being gathered without reducing its amount is to look at data collection methods. Instead of asking EMTs and paramedics to manually input the data they collect, let’s allow them to use images, video, and audio to enhance their collection methods and make their jobs easier.

Images, video, and audio will provide EMS professionals with rich sources of objective data. Uploading a photo of a laceration instead of having to write a description of it can also significantly reduce charting time.

Fortunately there are several pioneering companies that are working to improve EMS data collection methods.

ESO Solutions is an electronic patient care report vendor that not only connects the EMS report to the hospital EHR, but also includes a language tool to help reduce language barrier issues.

Versio focuses on making documentation easier and more accurate by providing EMS personnel with a dictation service. By allowing the EMT or paramedic to dictate their report, data is collected much faster.

My own company, Novum Concepts, lets EMS professionals register patients before they arrive at the hospital. All the EMT or paramedic has to do is snap a picture of the patient’s drivers license with their smartphone, and then send that image to the hospital via our encrypted, HIPAA-compliant app.


Better Care, Faster

Believe it or not, most EMS reports are still being faxed to the receiving hospital. Unfortunately, these reports can take anywhere from four to 48 hours to be added into a patient’s chart. By that time the patient has already left the ER and the report adds no actual value to the care provided.

Improved methods of data collection can help reduce the time it takes for potentially life-saving information to reach a patient’s EHR. Images, videos, and audio files can also enrich the reports that EMS professionals create, allowing physicians and nurses to care for their patients in a more targeted manner.


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