Evolve or die: The changing face of EMS

Community paramedicine is one sign that we are moving forward

News that Thompson Valley, Colo., EMS is investigating the viability of community paramedicine programs is, I hope, one of many stories that I'll comment on this year.

What I said in my 5 things We Have to Do in 2012 column I meant: We have to evolve or we will surely be relegated to the cluttered little corner of professions "that never made it."

Community paramedicine is one sign that we are moving forward. In the era where health care will undergo its own revolution, EMS has to be part of the solution.

We have been part of America's health safety net for the past 35-plus years, ever since EMTALA became part of our nation's liability umbrella.

It simply makes sense that we are uniquely poised to implement unique, creative ways to improve the delivery of health care while lowering its cost to taxpayers and the insured (yeah I know, trickle down doesn't always work, but THAT's another story).

Evolutions like this also require evolution of thinking, and of learning. It's not enough to say, "Yeah, we have lots of experience, we can do this, too," and implement a complex program such as community paramedics.

Unfortunately there are many education programs that do not provide enough training to prepare EMS providers to make a transport decision safely and effectively.

As a profession, we need to ratchet up the volume and complexity of information so we can evaluate and decide who can receive such home care, and not need immediate, further evaluation by a physician.

Not everything can be taken care of by a set of protocols, especially when patients don't go by the rules.

Community paramedicine is one step. What other roles can we fill in our community? How else can we contribute to society's greater good?


About the author

Art Hsieh, MA, NRP teaches in Northern California at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. An EMS provider since 1982, Art has served as a line medic, supervisor and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook writer, author of "EMT Exam for Dummies," has presented at conferences nationwide and continues to provide direct patient care regularly. Art is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Contact Art at Art.Hsieh@ems1.com and connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

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