Transitioning to NEMSIS 3: Three Key Steps to Prepare

Posted on June 5, 2018
Tags: EMS

If you’re like many EMS service providers across the U.S., you’re probably preparing for – or currently working towards – integration of the new NEMSIS Version 3 standards for your patient care reports. And whether you’re an administrator looking for the best software tool for your organization, or a member of the field personnel that will be tasked with recording the new required information, you may be wondering what kind of changes you should expect and looking for ways to make the upgrades as painless as possible. 

The National EMS Information System (NEMSIS) is an EMS industry data standard that promotes a uniform method of collecting information related to EMS patient care and operations. NEMSIS helps defines the data fields required in electronic patient care reports (ePCRs) so that a paramedic treating a patient in Ohio is collecting data in the same way as an EMT in Arizona, even if they are using different ePCR or electronic health record (EHR) software.   

This standardization leads to a wide range of benefits, including the ability to improve patient care through identifying areas for improvement, reviewing community health statistics across the nation, and easily sharing information with hospitals. NEMSIS Version 3 – the latest standard currently being implemented across the U.S. – offers many opportunities not available with earlier versions, including: 

  • More specific data fields, such as pertinent negatives (for example, an EMT can now document why a chest pain patient did not receive aspirin). 
  • An improved validation system to help ensure that patient reports are meeting your state’s minimum information for a complete record 
  • A web-based submission system that allows for easier, real-time submission to state and national EMS databases 
  • Ability to integrate with other healthcare records through use of the Health Level 7 (HL7) standard 

For administrators preparing to transition their teams to NEMSIS 3, there are three simple steps that will aid in the move. 

  1. Ensure that field providers are aware of the coming changes and properly trained prior to implementation. In many organizations that are already using ePCRs, the move to NEMSIS 3 should not mean significant changes but may require the addition of some new data fields or changes in options to complete current fields. One significant change in a more specific documentation of “provider impression and diagnosis;” NEMSIS Version 3 uses ICD-10 international classification system codes for documenting the patient’s main reason for requesting and requiring EMS treatment or transport. This expanded list allows EMTs and paramedics to better document their impression at a much deeper level, while still allowing for including less-detailed descriptions via a hierarchical coding system. 
  1. Communicate early and often with internal IT staff, state EMS officials, data managers, and your software vendor. It is true that some emergency services may require a change in ePCR software if their current software is not Version 3-compliant product (view “Buying Guide: 7 Secrets of SmartePCR Buyers”). However, for field personnel, the information in any new software platform should be relatively similar to what they have already been collecting in their pre-Version 3 tool. The new data that will be made available through Version 3 will be rich and plentiful; it’s important to ensure that your team is ready to process and utilize it. With the right software tools, however, you can make the most of the new information to make improvements without having to become a data analyst. 
  1. Ensure that any required hardware upgrades related to the new requirement are addressed early on. Purchasing, implementing, testing, training, and mastering new hardware can take some time, so be sure to build that into your timeline.

The move to NEMSIS Version 3 promises many benefits to health care providers and communities alike. For example, standardizing patient records across the nation means it is easier to analyze trends in specific communities and for the nation as a whole. For administrators, it allows gaps in service to be identified and makes it easier to submit required information for local and state requirements. These statistics can help support budgetary and staffing requests, ensuring that teams get the support their workload is requiring.  

Finally, ensuring that every patient has a complete and easily shared record when transferred to the hospital increases the chances for successful outcomes. The opportunity for EMS to receive back a full view of the patient’s experience from transport to discharge – in one complete record – allows for improvements in initial impressions and care on the scene.