Experts Discuss the Importance of EMS Data During NHTSA Webinar

EMS agencies are collecting more information than ever, and that data can be used to evaluate and improve patient care, benchmark agency performance, and for many other purposes. That was the message of the EMS data and quality improvement experts who joined the NHTSA Office of EMS staff for a roundtable discussion during the latest installment of EMS Focus, a collaborative Federal webinar series.

On July 28, Clay Mann, PhD, primary investigator for the National EMS Information System (NEMSIS) Technical Assistance Center; Alex Garza, MD, a member of the EMS Compass steering committee; and Nick Nudell, project manager for EMS Compass, joined NHTSA’s Noah Smith to talk about how EMS data is collected and how it can help EMS agencies improve.

Each presenter agreed that the data is only useful if it is valid and reliable, making the accurate and timely completion of patient care reports (PCRs) critical not only to patient care, but also to quality improvement and accountability efforts.

“It all starts with that EMT or paramedic in the back of the ambulance typing on a Toughbook, saying this is my assessment, this is what I saw, this is the care I provided,” said Smith, who talked about how he didn’t appreciate how important the electronic patient care report (ePCR) was when he started as an EMT, although that changed as he developed an appreciation for how that information later gets used.

While some organizations may struggle to use their data in a meaningful way, Nudell said EMS Compass would help even the smallest EMS agencies measure and improve performance.

“You won’t need to be a technology expert or wizard or data geek to be able to use the performance measures coming from EMS Compass,” he said. “It will be much easier for vendors to build these measures into their systems,” allowing ePCR users to have standardized reports created for them based on the EMS Compass measures.

Garza, a former paramedic and EMS director at the local and state level, said that what mattered most was not access to a full-time data analyst or robust reporting software, but whether an EMS agency was dedicated to collecting high-quality data in order to improve its performance.

“No matter how large or small your service is, that’s really what it takes: the commitment of the service,” he said. “It has to start with that commitment to quality and collecting quality data.”  Read the full article here.