7 Things You Should Know About Exchanging Data with EMS
You may have heard of data exchanges between EMS and hospitals, but do you know how they work or exactly how they can benefit your hospital ED team? Sharing data between EMS and hospitals has a long list of benefits to all involved, but up until recently, has been practically impossible. Today’s top data exchange software, however, now allows seamless, bidirectional information sharing along the entire spectrum of care, integrating data from any ePCR system into any hospital EMR.
Prehopstial care information is, of course, extremely helpful to ED staff receiving the patient. Knowing exactly what mediation has been administered, patient vitals, and other key data points can improve patient care and reduce the chance of sentinel events. Hospitals can also use data exchange to send back patient information to their EMS partners, allowing these agencies to measure and improve their own performance based on real-world data and outcomes.
Beyond this, however, there are several additional ways that EMS data can benefit emergency departments and entire hospital systems, including:
1. Reducing HIPAA Concerns
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) Act was created not only to protect patient information, but to also allow information sharing when appropriate, as in the case of direct patient care or quality improvement. In fact, in 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a letter affirming that hospitals can and should share patient outcomes with EMS. This has been compounded by the more recent need for hospitals and EMS to share COVID-19 data with each other.
With all the unsecure methods of sharing that currently take place – printed records, emails, exchanging passwords, and faxes – setting up a secure, cloud-based, and easy-to-audit method of exchanging hospital and EMS data is an improvement, and something that should appeal to all those tasked with protecting patient information.
2. Supporting Joint Commission Compliance
While hospitals are expected to thoroughly document and update a patient’s record while he or she is in its care, The Joint Commission takes it a step further, highlighting the importance of prehospital care. In fact, standard RC.02.01.01 EP 2 notes that the medical record should contain “any emergency care, treatment, and services provided to the patient before his or her arrival.”
Electronic patient records, shared securely and in real time through a data exchange, help ensure that hospitals remain compliant with this requirement and spend less time tracking down missing paper records, transcribing hard-to-read handwritten notes, or waiting for follow-up faxes and calls.
3. Improving Long-term Patient Care
One of the benefits of hospitals sharing data back with EMS through data exchanges is that the patient outcomes can be used for training and shaping protocols in the prehospital setting. This means that as medics learn more about the outcomes of their patients within the four walls of the hospital, they can more readily adapt their skills and processes to treating future patients in the field.
For example, an agency may use outcome data to teach medics how to more easily recognize signs of sepsis or stroke based on data. Hospitals supporting their EMS partners this way results in a smarter, more informed EMS system that can readily tackle patient care and improve that care over the long run.
4. Building Stronger Partnership with EMS Agencies
An “Us versus Them” mentality in the ED can not only hamper the handoff from prehospital to hospital care, but can prevent improvements in processes, insight, and community health. Breaking down barriers by sharing patient outcomes and other helpful information can be an important step in building a collaborative culture with your EMS partners.
Ensuring your processes respect EMS input and time – like honoring CathLab alerts, meeting EMS teams at the door of the ED, and reviewing ePCR info they’ve sent ahead before they arrive – not only benefit your working relationship with prehospital providers, but also improve the care your patients receive. Using tools to share back patient data and outcomes helps them provide better care in the field and work on their own processes. Not to mention, when providers feel a part of the team, they are more likely to recommend your facility to patients and other EMS providers.
5. Making Smarter Treatment Decisions
ED health care professionals must make the best decisions possible with the information they have readily available. Leaving any detail out – including the patient’s care en route to the hospital – could easily change the treatment plan and the outcome. That’s why it is so valuable to have access to a complete patient care record, created by the responding EMS agency and handed off quickly and seamlessly at the ED.
Key data points like fluid administered, medications administered, and primary/secondary impressions can help physicians more quickly develop a picture of patient health and move to a diagnosis and treatment plan. In the noisy and often chaotic environment of the ED, a digital record and alerts sent ahead of arrival can have the ED team activated and ready to treat. This is especially important in the most traumatic cases.
6. Achieving Real and Measurable Time-Savings
In a typical setting, an EMS agency needs to either fax or print the patient care record for the hospital emergency department to access. Unfortunately, the challenge is that when there are delays, you can miss out on critical data needed to inform patient care decisions.
With a bidirectional data exchange between EMS and hospitals, you no longer need to wait hours to receive critical data. Instead, you’ll get access to that data within minutes and you won’t need to carry around papers or scan them into your hospital EHR. Instead, they are automatically sent to the EHR for easy reference and use.
Additionally, key time stamps and prehospital metrics are digitally recorded and easily referenced for QI/QA projects or other data-driven projects. From door-to-cath or other hospital metrics, you can easily track down time stamps and even connect back to prehosptial care.
7. Improved Insight into Critical Business Intelligence
A benefit of sharing data with EMS isn’t just in the medical realm; you can also see review referral patterns and receive insight into volume by service line to understand how EMS services are impacting your bottom line. EMS agencies represent a top source of your incoming patients, especially the most critical cases, and a good working relationship can help ensure they are choosing your facilities for their destinations.
Additionally, EMS data can help you develop a better understanding of your community. This can assist you in staffing and training, and also for important decisions like locations of future facilities based on community demographics and trends. Finally, the ability to review and verify demographic and insurance information streamlines the registration and billing processes for both hospitals and EMS service, increasing revenue.
Breaking down the barriers between prehosptial and hospital care is a win-win situation, benefitting patients, EMS agencies, and hospitals alike. Bidirectional data is key in helping all providers deliver better care, in any environment, and also directly improves the operational and business efficiencies of their organizations.