What to consider when getting into EMS

A decision to change the EMS system must be done in a deliberate way

As yet another piece of evidence that EMS systems operate in an ever-changing environment, an Ohio fire department is considering getting back into the business.

Words of advice? Don’t rush in, and evolve your department in order to do the job well.

There are many ways to provide emergency care and transport. EMS1 readers have weighed in as to the “best way” or “only way” to do so, sometimes quite vigorously.

It’s an emotional argument, with little evidence to point in one clear direction. If there was, we’d all be doing it the same way, right? So in the absence of science, we depend upon what we feel is best for the community. 

There are a lot of factors to consider. Cost of the service clearly is one of them; poor economic conditions have pushed many towns and cities to reconsider how to provide emergency medical services. Geography, population density, and insurance all play a part.

Politics has a heavy hand as well. What sometimes gets lost is what is best for the community — what it can afford, what best fits, and what provides the best outcomes for the investment. 

A decision to change the EMS system must be done in a deliberate, careful manner so that as many factors as possible are considered. Can this department adapt its daily operations and perform its new mission? Are there efficiencies that can be created by consolidating EMS and fire services? Will it cost the community more?

Beyond the department, can the city create a stronger contractual relationship with a commercial service provider to maintain its EMS transport component?

These questions, and more, should always be addressed as a city looks at its options.

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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