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What’s the future of EMS?

The EMS Agenda 2050 project envisions the next 30 years of EMS systems in the United States


Attendees discussing Taigman’s questions in small groups.

Photo/Greg Friese

BOCA RATON, Fla. — The EMS community, through a two-year process facilitated by Mike Taigman, is creating a vision for what a patient-centered, evidence-based EMS system will look like in 30 years and how to get there.

Paramedic chiefs and EMS leaders at the Pinnacle EMS conference were briefed on the top developments in the first 50 years of EMS by Jon Krohmer, MD, Director, NHTSA Office of EMS. Taigman, improvement guide, FirstWatch, continued the presentation by introducing the EMS Agenda 2050 project, the 10-member technical expert panel and the project’s timeline.

The technical expert panel’s role is to inspire input and then synthesize the input into a document for the next 30 years of EMS. Input is being collected from EMS associations, through a web form for individual comments and in regional meetings.

During the Pinnacle presentation, Taigman asked small groups of EMS leaders to discuss a series of questions. Those questions were:

1. What could people-centered really mean for EMS in the future?

2. What things do you see today that are not people-centered?

3. What’s one piece of cool technology that’s not been invented yet that you’d love to see in EMS?

4. What would a fully integrated, seamless system between EMS and health care be able to do for people that we can’t do today?

5. What would be the components of a truly safe EMS system … safe for patients, families, the public and providers?

Memorable quotes on history of and future for EMS

Here are three memorable quotes from Dr. Krohmer and Taigman:

“We (EMS) are the intersection of health care, public health and public safety.” – Dr. Krohmer

“This is an exercise in collective dreaming. Fantasizing about what the future of EMS should be.”

“Resist the urge to be mired in the problems today. Look beyond the issues of right now.” – Mike Taigman

Top takeaways

Taigman is a skilled facilitator and the small group process educated and engaged attendees. Here are three top takeaways:

1. Understand our history

Two decades ago, leaders from across EMS created the Agenda for the Future, paving the way for many recent advances to the nation’s EMS systems. Knowing our history, including sentinel events, top influencers and foundational documents, is important for every EMS leader as they guide their agencies and the profession into the future.

The 20th anniversary of the EMS Agenda for the Future is the first event on the project timeline. A national implementation forum is scheduled for September 2018.

2. Get involved

Jim Page is credited with the saying, “Decisions get made by the people who show up.” The EMS Agenda 2050 technical expert panel invites all EMS providers, leaders and supporters to participate. Get involved by:

  • Subbmitting comments to the technical expert panel.
  • Attending regional meetings in Silver Spring, Md.; Minneapolis; Los Angeles; or Dallas.
  • Reading, reacting and responding to the strawman document (to be published later this month).

The strawman document will be the initial publication of the EMS Agenda 2050 technical expert panel with the intent to stimulate response to guide writing of the draft EMS Agenda 2050 document.

3. Think BIG about the future

When envisioning the future, Taigman explained the goal of the technical expert panel is to think “Jetsonian” and not “Flintstonian.” The series of questions pushed attendees to consider what EMS might be and not what EMS has done or the current challenges. The most stimulating discussion in my small group focused on a yet-to-be invented technology that we’d love to see in EMS.

Learn more

The best way to learn more about the EMS Agenda 2050 is by getting involved. In addition, here are some EMS1 articles to further explore the project:

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1 and EMS1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on LinkedIn.