Quick Take: Who are LA's frequent EMS users?

Frequent users are better defined as 'vulnerable adults' and EMS has an opportunity to connect them to available community resources


Dr. Stephen Sanko, from Los Angeles, presented on EMS frequent users in the EMS Today new speaker forum. He defined frequent users, where they are located, and how data from patient care reports is helping better understand and resolve the problems. Sanko, a rising EMS leader, delivered an interesting and educational presentation to an interested group of attendees.

EMS frequent users: Who, where, and how to understand

A Baltimore study looked at frequent users. People transported six times of more are in a different category than people transported five times or less. Those people accounted for 12 percent of transports. A San Francisco study also found that a similar small group of patients accounted for a large amount of transports. In Los Angeles, Dr. Sanko's home, the number of frequent users is increasing year over year.

Dr. Stephen Sanko, from Los Angeles, presented on EMS frequent users in the EMS Today new speaker forum.
Dr. Stephen Sanko, from Los Angeles, presented on EMS frequent users in the EMS Today new speaker forum. (Image Greg Friese)

In Los Angeles, frequent users are most often men between the ages of 40 to 55 that have multiple medical issues including mental health, addiction, and other chronic medical conditions. Around 60 percent are homeless and many of the others come from low socio-economic areas with low availability of primary care doctors and lack of public transportation.

There is a rapidly accumulating mountain of data from 57 hospitals across the city on frequent EMS users. The data is so voluminous it is difficult to query or sort. Sanko is trying to put that data to good use to identify the most vulnerable adults that are in the community, as well as sub-groups and where community resources might be better deployed. 

Sanko discussed the need to change our mindset about frequent users.

"Paint the right picture for our EMS providers about frequent users,” he said. “These are 'vulnerable adults' that need our help and an opportunity for EMS to demonstrate its value to the community.”

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