Why Hospitals Need EMS Data During COVID-19

Posted on July 16, 2020
Tags: Hospital

While some hospitals across the nation are slowly recovering from the massive first wave of COVID-19 cases – and others are gearing up to battle the growing second wave – it’s clear that addressing this virus will be a marathon, not a sprint. And, as with any new long-term prognosis, hospitals must now begin to move from disaster response mode to proactively seek out ways to address the “long tail” of this extended fight.

Whether forming processes for a “new normal” or making room to implement developing treatment plans, a key component is undoubtedly viewing the full spectrum of patient care. As most healthcare professionals will tell you, medical care begins long before the patient arrives at the ED doors, and today it’s more important than ever to breakdown the silos, be truly interoperable, and analyze every available data source.

Better Planning, Better Preparation
We know COVID-19 is far from over, so now’s the time to begin looking for channels that can provide data and insights to help better serve your patients. Could your hospital be missing a data source that drives through the doors every day?

EMS offers a vital source of data for hospitals. Our recent peer-reviewed paper describing characteristics of COVID-19 EMS encounters with linked hospital diagnoses highlights just how important it is for EMS and hospitals to share data. Developing a full picture of this virus means leveraging every data source available, and prehospital care is a crucial component you don’t want to miss.

Start by bringing EMS staff into your emergency management team meetings so you can embed your EMS partners into the planning process. In doing so, you’ll have a voice at the table that can share what the day-to-day field experiences look like and any observed trends. By working together, you can improve care at every point in the continuum to give yourself every advantage you can against the pandemic. Plus, your EMS partners will gain insight into how they can best work with your staff, which creates a real win-win.

Direct Access to Critical Datapoints
As the phrase goes, “knowing is half the battle.” The more data you have at your fingertips, the smarter your decision-making process becomes. Your local EMS agencies are collecting prehospital data pertinent to COVID-19 that can benefit your hospital. Below are three EMS data points that could be especially helpful to your COVID-19 response plans.

  1. Exposure to Confirmed Patient:
    Identifies the patient has had contact with a patient confirmed by testing. This variable allows hospital staff to be on higher alert when interacting with the patient. Additionally, this data point will enable hospitals and EMS to communicate in a HIPAA-compliant way about exposures to COVID-19 – no more phone tag or emails to chase down when someone has been exposed.
  2. COVID-19 Confirmed by Testing:
    Identifies patients as positive for COVID-19. This, of course, can help both EMS and hospital staff prepare for interactions with patients, including PPE and equipment, and precautionary procedures.
  3. PPE Usage:
    This datapoint documents the amount and type of PPE used by EMS. The rate and volume can help build the overall picture of healthcare community usage of PPE in your area, lending a stronger voice to supply and purchasing of additional PPE. This trend can also analyze PPE usage by specific types – such as gowns, gloves, or masks – to determine the greatest area needs.

Connecting with EMS
Even before COVID-19, many hospitals were working to improve communication with EMS agencies, seeing the value in not only sharing data but building that working relationship.

Software tools such as ESO Health Data Exchange (HDE) can automate the data exchange process and make bidirectional data sharing a reality. Not only does receiving prehospital care data more quickly help staff prepare and make more efficient decisions in the ED, closing the loop with the EMS team provides closure, learning opportunities, and a fuller picture of the patient care spectrum.

COVID-19 is not going anywhere anytime soon. Hospitals with an eye to the future will be making policy and process updates to not only better care for their communities, but protect and support their staff. Making the most of prehospital care data for your community is a critical component in this process and partnering with EMS has never been more vital.


Watch a video on how ESO HDE bridges the data gap between EMS and the hospital, with bidirectional data sharing to support operational and quality process needs.

Check out ESO’s COVID-19 Data Dashboard, updated daily with data from more than 2,600 EMS agencies across the U.S.