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EMS World Expo Quick Take: The distributive power of EMS

The communication lines in EMS make it the mobile solution to bring the ER and lifesaving care to the patients

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Photo/Kerri Hatt

EMS1 reports annually from the EMS World Expo conference, offering takeaways from educational sessions, product announcements and updates from the Expo floor. Catch our coverage here.


Pictured: Kenneth A. Scheppke, MD, FAEMS; Firefighter/Paramedic Jason Patton.

ORLANDO, Fla. — After an in-person COVID conference hiatus, EMTs, paramedics, firefighters, chiefs and medical directors reconnected at EMS World Expo in Orlando. After a number of award presentations and recognition to the many providers from within and outside the state who responded to the devastating effects of Hurricane Ian on southern Florida, the keynote speakers took the stage.

Florida Department of Health Deputy Secretary for Health, Kenneth A. Scheppke, MD, FAEMS, gave a lightning overview of the coming of age of EMS, and Firefighter/Paramedic Jason Patton, with Riviera Beach (Jupiter) Fire Rescue, of “The Fire Department Chronicles,” YouTube fame, had attendees rolling with laughter as he poked fun at his fellow speaker and EMS, while sharing his passion for the field.

Key quotes from the EMS World Expo keynote

If there’s something they’re doing in the hospital that’s time sensitive ... it’s even more important to give it before you get to the hospital” — Kenneth A. Scheppke, MD, FAEMS

Our profession is literally built for disasters.” — Kenneth A. Scheppke, MD, FAEMS

People in this field are the most interesting humans you will ever meet.” — Jason Patton

Top takeaways from EMS World Expo keynote

Following are key takeaways from Dr. Scheppke and Patton.

1. The problems have not changed, but our approach has

Dr. Scheppke acknowledged the humble beginnings of formalizing EMS in the 1960s, and how research has shaped the way EMS responds to and treats the same patient complaints that have faced EMS since its inception, touching on a few key areas, including:

  • Ketamine: a standard of care sedative which has come under fire, but has been deemed more effective than fentanyl, safe enough to be used to sedate the boys who were rescued from the cave collapse in Thailand, and an effective rescue drug for status epilepticus
  • Systems of care: how brain catheterization has changed the game, and EMS has saved more lives and more patients have walked out the hospital doors neurologically intact because of the research into transport destination decisions

2. Treating addiction as a brain disease

One of the best examples of doing things differently than the way we’ve always done them is the innovative approach fire and EMS departments are taking to treat addiction.

One of the things we’ve been missing in healthcare is to treat addiction as a brain disease, Scheppke noted, asking what other chronic, debilitating and fatal disease we treat without giving the patient anything to help. Some departments are changing that practice, providing buprenorphine with great success.

3. Bringing the ER to the street

What is the future of EMS, Scheppke asked. “Should we be taking the patient to the ER or taking the ER to the patient?”

In his opinion, community paramedicine efforts to bring physicians, through telemedicine, into patients’ homes, is the distributive future of healthcare.

4. Communication is key

Dr. Scheppke shared an anecdote to illustrate the power of communication. Scheppke’s son-in-law, a Carolina Panthers fan, asked Scheppke, a pilot, to bring him to a playoff game. Despite being cautioned by his daughter, “don’t kill the father of my children,” Scheppke agreed, and all went swimmingly until they ran into poor weather on the return trip.

They were going to have to land, and find a place to stay overnight before finishing the journey. Scheppke’s son-in-law texted his wife with an update, and due to the limited cell service, for 15 minutes, all she received was, “We’re not gonna make it.”

“Communication is usually the breakdown when it comes to disasters,” Scheppke quipped, before pointing out the opposite was the case when EMS was faced with one of its biggest disasters – COVID-19.

Scheppke applauded the Eagles’ weekly lecture series which brought internationally renowned experts together to share the real-time lessons they were learning in treating COVID patients, from physicians in Italy cautioning against ventilators, to those hit with COVID surges early in the pandemic warning about the impact the pandemic was having on nursing home patients. Collectively, these experts “saved countless lives,” Scheppke noted, saying, “I’m unaware of any other profession having this network that we have in EMS.”

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Kerri Hatt is editor-in-chief, EMS1, responsible for defining original editorial content, tracking industry trends, managing expert contributors and leading execution of special coverage efforts. Prior to joining Lexipol, she served as an editor for medical allied health B2B publications and communities.

Kerri has a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Joseph’s University, in Philadelphia. She is based out of Charleston, SC. Share your personal and agency successes, strategies and stories with Kerri at