NAEMSP annual meeting showcases maturation of EMS
Research, introspection, innovation and advocacy point to the deliberate growth phase EMS is entering
SAN DIEGO — At the 2016 National Association of EMS Physicians’ annual meeting several hundred physicians, field providers and EMS administrators from around the world heard current updates and trends in emergency medicine and networked with each other, seeking best practices and lessons learned to bring back to their local communities.
There was not very much in terms of earth-shattering developments or news at the NAEMSP meeting. Much of the information was elaboration of existing knowledge or reporting of events that transpired earlier in the year. Yet that deepening of knowledge in and of itself points toward the continuing maturation of emergency medical services. After decades of rapid — some would suggest uncontrolled — growth, EMS is following the developmental pathway of the house of medicine: careful inspection of what works and what doesn’t, and a more deliberate approach to where it should go next.
The EMS fellows program is a good example. A physician who completes specialty training, such as emergency medicine, can then undergo further subspecialty training in a fellowship program. A few years ago EMS fellowships didn’t exist. Now there are 70 fellowship programs across the United States and Canada. EMS fellows represent the future medical directors of EMS systems, and are better trained and prepared for the responsibility that their predecessors.
Discussions at the meeting about mobile integrated health/ community paramedic programs represented another evolutionary development, with focus on understanding the outcomes and how such programs integrate into the rapidly changing health care landscape. EMS will continue to integrate its once-standalone functions into the house of medicine, to provide more effective patient care.
The public safety side of the equation was not ignored either. There were excellent presentations on the emergency response to the massive earthquake and snow avalanche in Tibet as well as the events in Ferguson, Missouri. Better integrated medical response to a major incident is another indicator of the dual role of EMS providers.
The exhibit hall was also reflective of ongoing development and industry maturation. Not much was new on the floor, but there was a lot of energy and foot traffic about data collection and management, and technologies that improve delivery of care.
Finally, with a presentation on current legislative activities that will affect physicians and field providers alike, it was very apparent that EMS is well within the mainstream of health care. The EMS profession has been slow to realize that much of its future depends on what happens in Washington DC and that without direct action and advocacy the profession will be left on the sidelines of health care policy.