EMS Patient Care Trends: What’s Working & What’s Not in 2016

2016 is shaping up to be a banner year for EMS providers, with lots of gains over previous years in improving patient satisfaction. After evaluating the responses contained in of some of our clients’ patient satisfaction surveys and speaking with leaders in our industry, we have uncovered some of the top patient care trends that demonstrate how EMS providers are listening and adapting to patient care needs.

Positive Trend 1: EMS services and hospitals are sharing more data

More hospitals than ever are tracking their patient care outcomes from pre-admission through discharge and into after-care. By evaluating these global metrics and examining the patient experience at each touchpoint, healthcare providers can gain a clearer picture of how each piece fits into the whole and can work together to create a more seamless and comfortable experience for patients.

Positive Trend 2: The rise of “just culture” in healthcare

“Just culture” in healthcare refers to sharing accountability between individuals and the systems in which they operate. It involves examining the systematic factors and failures that result in mistakes, rather than simply punishing the individual and moving on without correcting the system that enabled the failure.  In the just culture framework, incidents are not viewed in isolation; it’s a proactive approach to examine the entire system that has failed the patient. Patient satisfaction surveys are a key tool in understanding how a system operates and will quickly demonstrate failure points, often in a patient’s own words. By looking at these shortcomings as part of an overall gestalt, EMS organizations and healthcare providers can adjust elements of their service toward improving patient satisfaction and reducing avoidable errors.

Positive Trend 3: Improving care while reducing costs

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) has created a useful framework called The Triple Aim Initiative, which has the goal of optimizing a health system’s performance through three prongs: improving the patient experience, including patient satisfaction and quality of care; improving the health of various populations; and reducing the per capita cost of health care. IHI asserts that the following measures are required to promote the initiative’s success:

  • Identifying target populations
  • Clearly defining system aims and measures
  • Creating a portfolio of project work that demonstrates system-level results
  • Rapid testing to scale and adapt programs to local needs and conditions

Accurate data collection and aggregation can play a hugely supportive role in organizing information to improve health care efficiency.

Positive Trend 4: Self-evaluation and measurement among health providers

Health providers have long been aware that unbiased tests and evaluations are critical when determining a course of action for a patient’s care. The community is now finally beginning to understand the impact that evaluations can have on improving the level of service they offer. By administering surveys to patients that capture data for immediate evaluation, the healthcare community has quickly made major strides in identifying areas for improving patient satisfaction. This willingness to self-reflect has enabled significant industry advancements in a short period of time.

Positive trend 5: Emerging standards for paramedic education

Though there is still no national standard for paramedic education, EMS community leaders and healthcare providers have begun an important conversation that addresses the need for clearer standards that equalize a level of care and protocol across all EMS providers. This represents an important advancement for EMS organizations who recognize that not only can education improve the patient experience, but it can also set a framework that eases the strains of the hiring process for EMS organizations who are forced to evaluate prospective candidates on an individual basis.

Though 2016 has seen major advancements in many areas, there are still some issues that the EMS community continues to address.

Challenge 1: Billing and reimbursement issues

The challenges associated with reimbursements, revenue cycle and cash flow continue to be an issue for all providers. These operational difficulties can affect the entire healthcare chain, including payroll and vendors. As of right now, there is no clear method for correcting these setbacks. However, what we have discovered during our examination of patient satisfaction surveys is that patients who are happy with the level of care they receive are less likely to delay payment or engage in billing disputes with EMS providers. Though there is presently no magic bullet to solve this issue, EMS organizations that maximize their level of service see a smoother road to reimbursement.

Challenge 2: The speed at which healthcare industry problems are resolved

Though the above changes are hugely positive for the EMS industry, the downside is that these changes have been a long time coming. Many of these pressing issues are not being resolved quickly enough. However, by being more introspective as a whole and being more proactive about discussing industry challenges, the EMS community is on track to increase effectiveness that will ultimately help both providers and patients.

As healthcare continues to evolve, understanding the challenges and opportunities facing EMS providers can help accelerate innovative decision making. In an age of technology and communication, it has never been easier to access useful information that yields valuable insights. Don’t let this knowledge go to waste. Use it to evaluate ways your organization can improve your internal efficiency and raise your standard of care.

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