EMS Data – 5 Things You Never Thought You’d Hear A Fed Say

ESO Staff


What’s the view on EMS data from inside the federal government? At ESO’s Wave 2018 conference, Noah Smith, former federal bureaucrat overseeing the National EMS Information System (NEMSIS), now serving as the state health IT coordinator for Washington, D.C., shared the following insights from his tenure as a fed.  

Data (alone) is never the goal. “We get sort of lost in the daily minutiae of NEMSIS data elements and making sure that our providers are completing reports on time,” Smith said. “Challenge the assumptions you make every day and start thinking not only the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of what you do, but the ‘why.’” That might include quality measurement and improvement strategies, contributing to population health analytics, and creating a system of integrated care connected through information. 

 NEMSIS forgot about its “why.” “If NEMSIS was a business, we’d be bankrupt, because we were losing our customers and we weren’t listening to our customers,” Smith said. To get things back on track, starting in about 2015, NEMSIS representatives went on a “listening tour,” meeting with EMS providers, administrators, states, and researchers. They learned that NEMSIS, having become bureaucratically complex and expensive to fulfill, and offering little in the way of apparent benefits, was widely seen as having moved away from its primary mission of helping EMS systems thrive. Those findings came out in a report titled Beyond EMS Data Collection: Envisioning an Information-Driven Future for EMS. But there’s hope, Smith said, and the message from Washington is “We hear you, we’re learning, and we’re trying to get better.” 

We can turn our information into action (every day). There are countless uses — meaningful ones — for EMS data at the local level, Smith said. Those uses range from EMS provider safety, quality and performance improvement to enhanced billing, predictive analytics, demonstrating value to ACOs, MCOs and hospitals, and defining success without discussing response times.  

Your data is worthless unless you’re sharing it. Smith advocated sharing the data EMS collects every day, from all of its systems, among providers and among organizations. “These conversations should be happening in every single state,” he said. 

Don’t wait for the federal government to catch up to you (it won’t).  Be an early adopter, not a laggard who waits for government to tell you how to do something. “The federal government wasn’t designed to move quickly,” Smith said.  



  • Frank Ferrari: I like the concept of sharing our data daily. I would like to be better able to get through to hospitals that HIPAA rules were designed to ensure portability of that crucial information, not create a lock-down approach. How do you get through to them that we need their data? And is there anything the FED is doing to help with this matter?

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