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The Evolution of Emergency Medical Services and Virtual Care

May 20-26 is National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) week.  In 1974 president Gerald Ford named this week National EMS Week to celebrate EMS practitioners and all they work they do in the nations’ communities.  No matter the severity of the situation, EMS professionals are trained to handle anything and work around the clock to ensure quick care is available.

According to the Community Paramedic Program, an estimated 75 million people live in rural areas, where the people needing healthcare far outweigh providers available. The Community Healthcare and Emergency Cooperative (CHEC) formed in July 2007 to address critical health care shortages in rural and remote areas—specifically by developing a new community health provider option. From this the Community Paramedic Program emerged. This program trains and enables EMS to assist patients with:

  • Primary care
  • Public health
  • Disease management
  • Prevention and wellness
  • Mental health
  • Oral health

This allows paramedics to use their knowledge and expertise beyond what was originally designed. Instead of only transporting patients in need to the ER, paramedics can provide healthcare assistance and navigate patients to the appropriate resource.

EMS and Virtual Care

Virtual care is changing healthcare as we know it. The utilization of virtual care communication platforms will be transformational for EMS in their mission to deliver timely, quality care to patients.

A virtual care platform can be utilized by EMS to increase productivity and decrease the number of unnecessary ER ambulance transports.  When an emergency call is taken, the EMS personnel can assess the situation using a virtual care-enabled tablet or smartphone to speak directly with the patient to best determine what is needed in their individual situation.  In some situations, EMS can quickly reach out to a physician or specialist and immediately facilitate a virtual consult with the patient, thus, avoiding unnecessary transport to the ER.  If transport to the ER is critical and necessary, the EMS can use the virtual care platform to alert the Emergency Room staff about the incoming patient and visually (as well as verbally) better collaborate on what (and which specialists) will need to be on-hand when the patient arrives at the ER.    Whether or not the patient needs to ultimately be transported to the hospital, EMS can evolve their role in crises by using virtual care technology to provide patients with access to timely, quality care in critical conditions and help address a patient’s situation before it escalates into a more significant situation – especially in rural communities.

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