What's the future of EMS? Ask my mom

Focus on how technology can enhance communication and patient care to predict the next paradigm shift of the industry


This feature is part of the 2019 EMS Trend Report, an in-depth look at EMS trends in the U.S. and an assessment of how the EMS profession is changing. To read all of the articles included in the 2019 report, click here.

On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I wandered into Houdini's Magic Shop and watched as a performer razzle-dazzled each patron and then upsold them on a dream that they, too, could be part of the secret club of illusionists. 

A few days later, my magic talent hit me ... I have a (nearly) supernatural ability to see the future of EMS. In essence, you could call me a clairvoyant EMS psychic. My career has positioned me as an expert squarely at the intersection of EMS, technology and the human factor.

My future prediction

Looking into my crystal ball, I see a complete paradigm shift in EMS – one where the days of the traditional radio report and focus on transportation are a thing of the past.
Looking into my crystal ball, I see a complete paradigm shift in EMS – one where the days of the traditional radio report and focus on transportation are a thing of the past.

Looking into my crystal ball, I see a complete paradigm shift in EMS – one where the days of the traditional radio report and focus on transportation are a thing of the past. 

In the near future, EMS will instantly and dynamically communicate in real-time with different specialists to better meet the needs of the patient, playing an integral role in the greater healthcare ecosystem as we move to an out-of-hospital clinical model. 

How do I know this? What's my secret? 

I apply the "MAMA MOJO." I ask myself, "If my mom were a paramedic, what would she do?" 

EXAMPLE No. 1: Mom uses the simplest, most frictionless way to communicate

Don't ask technology geeks their opinion, ask my mom. 

How does Mom connect with her friends? Does she sit down at her desktop computer or open her laptop? Does she page her friend? Does she send a fax summary of the encounter? No. Does she use all of these technologies for a single conversation? Heck no. Yet, when it comes to the critically ill or injured, we cobble archaic technologies together in hopes that it'll be OK. 

On the flip side, Mom uses the simplest, most frictionless way to communicate – her smartphone or tablet. By being mobile-first, Mom can connect the way she wants to, with whomever she wants to, anytime she wants to. 

In EMS, we need to adopt a mobile-first mindset. While rugged laptops and tablets have their place (for documentation of patient care after it is delivered) in today's world, documentation is not communication. 

Yes, my mom can retroactively look up a text, video or Facebook post. However, the core value is her ability to connect in real-time.

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The challenge in today's healthcare world is to dynamically get the right information at the right time to the right people to make the best decision for the patient. While it may seem daunting to execute a coordinated and transparent communication system when so many players are involved, we actually do it all the time. 

Consider Amazon: Each minute, more than 6,000 orders are being processed without Jeff Bezos personally visiting each home to train the consumer. Instead, Amazon united buyers, sellers, inventory, financial institutions and shipping companies to accomplish a very complex task – but they make it feel like a very simple transaction. 

We need to do the same in EMS. The technologies that will flourish are those that work for the clinician and fit easily within their workflows. 

If my mom needs instructions, then it probably won't work. 

EXAMPLE No. 2: Mom cares more about communicating than about collecting data

Moving data from place to place is not the same as communication. Likewise, documentation is not the same as real-time communication. But what do we communicate? Data. They are related and closely connected, but not the same thing. 

My mom cares very little about the data. However, she does love communicating with people – and stores. In today's world, my mom can order a pizza from Domino's by texting a pizza emoji. Not only that, she can authorize her bank to pay for her order, and then, in real-time, watch the pizza's journey to her door. 

Shouldn't we have a similar plan in place when the outcome is much greater than food? Similar to ordering a pizza, everyone associated with the case could have instant, transparent and dynamic access to information. 

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The technology already exists. But our focus on only collecting data impedes us from using it to its full advantage. Data is important, but we need to communicate data in real-time, not just collect it for future reference. Its strength is in what it can provide clinicians in the time-sensitive moment, and that requires real-time communication.

EXAMPLE No. 3: Mom doesn't love change, but she is motivated to learn new technology if it adds value

Expect tradition to be the greatest challenge. Like most people, my mom doesn't love change. She doesn't seek the latest and greatest gadget. She's not interested in being cutting edge. 

But she is motivated to learn new technology if it adds value. Being able to connect with her grandkids via video adds value. At 67 years old, my mom connects via FaceTime to her youngest, 3-year-old grandson every morning. Then, a few times a week, she connects via FaceTime with her oldest, 17-year-old granddaughter who's at college. Seeing their faces while maintaining connection made learning new technology worthwhile. 

In EMS, we need to take the best practices from other industries and apply them to our world. In the future, telehealth will be the norm. Gone are the days of stationary, expensive workstations. If my little nephew knows how to video call his Grandma, then our medics should be able to video chat with other clinicians in real-time using the same simple devices. 

What is the value for EMS? It's an opportunity to be part of the greater healthcare team. By utilizing a mobile-first communications platform, the EMS clinician is now empowered to build a patient channel and connect with other care providers seamlessly. The result: streamlined communication and workflows, improved operational efficiencies, tangible cost savings, a significant reduction in treatment times and better patient outcomes. It's about people.  

The future, unveiled

As EMS transitions from a transport model to an out-of-hospital treatment model, many things will change – educational standards, reimbursement models and the way we communicate. The change is coming. If you're interested in catching an early glimpse of our EMS future, considering becoming Facebook friends with Mama Kaull. 

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