Despite a tremendous diversity in how emergency medical services (EMS) are provided in municipalities around the country, most U.S. EMS systems share one commonality: They remain primarily focused on responding quickly to serious accidents and critical emergencies even though patients increasingly call 911 for less severe or chronic health problems.
Recent efforts in health care to improve quality and reduce costs pose significant challenges to the existing EMS response model. Health care payers have become increasingly unwilling to reimburse for services that fail to prove their value. As a consequence, EMS agencies will soon be required to demonstrate their worth like never before.
It's critical for city and county managers to know that despite these challenges, the changing health care landscape also presents opportunities for EMS systems to evolve from a reactive to a proactive model of health care delivery—one that better meets the needs of their communities by preventing unnecessary ambulance transports, reducing emergency department visits, and providing better care at a lower cost. This InFocus is intended as a guide to identify challenges and opportunities and help you measure your efforts and define success.