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Examining red lights and sirens data with Jeff Jarvis, MD

Reduce unneeded red lights and sirens responses, while targeting time-critical emergencies


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We love nothing more than to tackle dogma with evidence on the MCHD Paramedic Podcast. In this episode, Casey Patrick, MD, FAEMS, assistant medical director for the Montgomery County Hospital District EMS, is joined by Williamson County and Marble Falls Area EMS Medical Director, Jeff Jarvis, MD, to discuss his recent prehospital emergency care manuscript, “Using Red Lights and Sirens for Emergency Ambulance Response: How Often are Potentially Life-Saving Interventions Performed?”, looking at the incidence of lifesaving interventions performed by EMS following a red lights and sirens response.

Why even look into this? Everyone knows that responding emergency traffic saves lives right? The existing evidence suggests otherwise, however, with red lights and sirens responses showing no change in patient mortality. Additionally, they only save 90 seconds in urban EMS settings, while also increasing the risk for vehicle crashes. This study’s objective was to add to the existing body of RLS research by looking at how many times a life-saving intervention is performed by EMS following an emergency response.

Dr. Jarvis and his research partners first had to come up with a list of potential life-saving interventions, which obviously leaves room for debate. However, they did an excellent job of including all potential life-saving interventions, even including time-sensitive emergency pre-alerts (STEMI/stroke/trauma/sepsis).

What did they find? In the ESO data set used containing almost 4,000,000 red lights and sirens responses from over 1,000 EMS agencies, potential life-saving interventions were performed in only 6.9% of scene responses.

What does this mean? The answer is multi-faceted and likely service specific. This should serve as a stimulus for all of us to look at our own red lights and sirens data in an effort to reduce unneeded emergency responses, while still trying to target time-sensitive situations.

Read next: 4 lights and sirens safety tips

The MCHD Paramedic Podcast was launched in early 2018 in an effort to provide easily consumable core-content EMS education and insights from prehospital care thought leaders. The Clinical Services Department of The Montgomery County Hospital District EMS service developed the podcast as a tool to better engage and disseminate continuing education to our MCHD medics as well as first responders and EMS professionals nationwide.

Dr. Casey Patrick is the assistant medical director for Montgomery County Hospital District EMS and is a practicing emergency physician in multiple community emergency departments across Greater Houston. His EMS educational focus is on innovative paramedic teaching via the MCHD Paramedic Podcast. Dr. Patrick’s prehospital clinical research involves the investigation of paramedic use of bolus dose intravenous nitroglycerin for acute pulmonary edema and the implementation of lung protective ventilation strategies for intubated EMS patients. Casey and his wife, Alyssa, work and live in Conroe, Texas, and Spokane, Washington. Together they have five children: Mia, Ainsley, Brock, Dean and Will.

Dr. Dickson graduated with honors from the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio in 2001 and completed emergency medicine training at Indiana University in 2004. He serves as the EMS medical director at Montgomery County Hospital District EMS and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. His academic interests include systems of care in stroke and other time-sensitive emergencies, neurologic emergencies and education. He is board certified in emergency medicine in both the U.S. and Australasia, and has subspecialty board certification in EMS medicine. He has authored multiple professional articles and presented at regional, national and international conferences on emergency medicine and EMS topics.