EMS Health Data Analytics: How to Improve Analysis

Posted on April 29, 2021
Tags: EMS

Quality data plays a key role in health care, and drives every decision that a provider makes to improve health outcomes for his or her patient. In the field of emergency health, this is especially true as decisions must be made in minutes, and key data must be accurately collected to ensure proper care further down the spectrum of care.

Unfortunately, EMS agencies often face a “data deluge,” with so many data points that it can feel overwhelming. Real world data trends from your own agency can help you improve processes, check individual performances, undertake QA/QI projects, and focus on the top concerns or call-type for your community. But how do you get from a data dump to easy-to-understand (and easy-to-share) actionable insights?

The answer is analytics, and with the right tools, you can more easily mine all the rich information waiting in your collections of data.

Obstacles in Analyzing Big Data Within EMS Agencies

It’s likely that you and your staff already spend a substantial amount of time collecting and inputting data. From the reporting requirements of national efforts like NEMSIS, to local requests from state and county officials, to your own need to check on operational efficiency – the demand for real-world, real-time data is ever-present.

EMS agencies however, often face challenges in processing their data. From outdated hardware, to numerous software tools that cause employees to replicate their work, many data entry and retrieval workflows are less than efficient.

Additionally, the majority of your staff most likely has little or no background in big data or analytics tools, and would understandably rather spend their time focusing on other requirements of their jobs. Old, paper-based recordkeeping systems can be hard to phase out, and the learning curve on new tools can be frustrating. It’s easy to see why data analytics is viewed as not only daunting but a real pain for most EMS agencies.

The Value of Improved Health Data Analytics for EMS Agencies

Analyzing Clinical Data

From the moment a call comes in to dispatch, the process of healthcare begins, and with it, the data begins to flow. EMS professionals are tasked with initiating and collecting key clinical data from the moment they arrive, until handoff at the hospital. Some of these observations and impressions will no longer be apparent to providers by the time the patient arrives at the ED, so it is up to the first responders to complete accurate, data-rich patient care reports to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment at the hospital.

Improving Clinical Data Collection and Analysis

With the proper EMS software, first responders can more quickly and accurately gather clinical and arrive at the ED with completed assessments. Rather than causing additional work, digital forms can help ensure all fields are completed, while online reference and dosing databases can reduce the number of errors in the field. Additionally, integration with other agency tools help reduce the amount of busywork back at the station, making it easier to complete accurate, timely reports.

Improving Patient Care

EMS Software can also improve the care delivered in the field and the overall patient experience. For example, EMS can use patient lookup features to save valuable time by quickly locating any existing medical history, while specialty forms can ensure that all additional steps are taken for potential stroke, STEMI, cardiac arrest, and other specific cases. These types of tools help EMS not only create more complete and accurate clinical documentation, but deliver a better patient experience from transport to handoff.

Analyzing Community Health

Reliable, real-world data also offers EMS agencies and other healthcare organizations invaluable insight into key information about a community. This information can in turn be used for a wide range of purposes and projects to increase operational efficiencies and improve quality of life for community members.

Predictive Analytics for Better Community Health and Engagement

Using analytics tools to process your data, you can easily extract helpful information to make your efforts in your community more effective. For example, the most basic information such as most common call type can ensure your agency is prepared with the type and amount of equipment and training you’re most likely to need. Demographics can help you form a more effective CCR program, and track its effectiveness. Response times can help you adjust specific protocols and even create faster routes.

Clinical Intelligence

Analytics based on your own operational data is key in helping you form and conduct QA/QI projects, using benchmark metrics to not only form a more efficient problem statement, but be able to see real progress you are (or aren’t) making. Your agency’s operational metrics are also helpful in participating in national efforts like NEMSIS – helping develop a more accurate picture of the EMS agency as a whole – as well as local requirements from government agencies, the media, and the public.

Improving Agency Operations and Performance

Managing an EMS agency is a demanding job, with rotating shift schedules, ongoing education requirements, budgeting restraints, and more. For example, an open shift must be filled by an employee with specific certifications, considering his or her overtime, rest hours, and other factors. Oftentimes, a manager finds himself or herself having to reenter duplicate data into payroll software, leaving room for error. Finally, valuable time is often spent trying to communicate with the team as a whole or individuals, filling open shifts, answering payroll questions, and creating reports.

EMS software can streamline communications with employees, as well improve the handshake between your scheduling and payroll tools. You can now easily communicate instantly to a specific group of qualified team members on open shifts, allow employees to see their own hours and payment history via self-serve tools, and instantly create payroll reports. A more efficient agency frees up management and team members to focus on more beneficial activities like training, continuing education, or even much-needed rest.

Use Case: Analyzing COVID Data to Improve Care and Strengthen Safety Protocols

During the height of the COVID outbreak in the U.S., emergency healthcare data played an important role in how healthcare professionals understood the disease, as well as how they worked to keep providers safer. For example, over time, EMS data began to show a shift in age demographics. While the data did still support the assumption that COVID-19 is a disease that disproportionately impacts seniors and those with underlying medical conditions, data also revealed that 47% of COVID-19 patients were actually under the age of 60. Information like this helped better inform the public as well as prepare health care providers for what types of patients would most likely be arriving in the ED.

EMS data also help illustrate the unique challenges and risks faced by first responders during the height of the pandemic, specifically when it came to PPE availability. EMS professionals have always been trained with the mantra, “One patient, one mask,” disposing of the PPE after each unique call. However, during COVID response, the burn rate of PPE soon became unsustainable. Agencies quickly began calculating that they would soon run out of PPE, with little chance of replacement by manufacturers. Agencies began operating under a “crisis strategy,” allowing providers to clean and reuse PPE when needed. Data recorded during the time showed:

  • Masks: 40% reuse
  • Face shield: 41% reuse
  • Isolation coverall: 42% reuse
  • Gown: 7.4% reuse

With the reuse rates, agencies became aware of additional risks to provider health, such as illness caused by cleaning agents. Understanding the high rate of reuse drove researchers to develop better ways to clean PPE, while the CDC took action to establish more specific reuse guidelines.

ESO aided in the data collection and analytics efforts during the COVID outbreak by maintaining a COVID dashboard as a free resource to EMS agencies, hospitals, researchers, and the public. ESO also released the 2020 ESO EMS Index: COVID-19 Special Edition, which reviewed 4.1 million 911 calls from January 1, 2020 – July 31, 2020.

Improve Data Analytics, Business Intelligence, and Patient Care With ESO

Software tools designed specifically for use in the EMS industry can make a real difference in how efficiently your agency operates, how you understand your community, and how you deliver care. Since ESO in rooted in the EMS agency, with most of its staff having current or past experience as healthcare providers, the tools address real-world challenges and issues faced in prehospital care. The suite of tools available for EMS agencies include patient records, scheduling, billing, checklists, asset management, and analytics. A specific software tool, Health Data Exchange, focuses specifically on improving communication between EMS and hospitals.

The ability to easily collect and then use your data has the potential to improve how your agency works, how you understands your community, and the quality of care you can deliver. ESO Analytics puts the power of data in your hands with more than 80 prebuilt reports, flexible editing, and easy-to-read data visualization. To learn how your agency can succeed with Analytics, watch this 90-second overview video or request a demo today.