How ESO's Research Forum is helping EMS professionals embrace data sharing

High-quality EMS research, according to Dr. Remle Crowe, will improve the health and safety of EMS providers and their patients

The hesitance of sharing, analyzing and accepting data-driven research in EMS is no secret.

For Dr. Remle Crowe, research is more than just gathering data and putting it into a spreadsheet.

Prior to becoming a research scientist and performance improvement manager for ESO, a data and software company aimed at serving EMS professionals, Crowe was an EMS research fellow at the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. While at NREMT, Crowe worked on a variety of research projects directly related to the health and safety of EMS providers. Today, she remains certified as an EMT and has a PhD in Epidemiology.

Dr. Remle Crowe, research scientist and performance improvement manager for ESO, a data and software company aimed at serving EMS professionals.
Dr. Remle Crowe, research scientist and performance improvement manager for ESO, a data and software company aimed at serving EMS professionals. (Photo/Courtesy of Dr. Crowe)

In 2018, ESO announced the formation of the Research Forum at the Wave conference. This year, the conference will take place March 21-22 in Austin, Texas. Registration for the conference ends on March 14.

The mission of the conference, which aligns with ESO's own goals, is to employ the power of data to improve care quality and foster positive change within organizations.

Making attendees aware of how EMS data is being used, Dr. Crowe said, is crucial when providing an answer to the "why" behind data sharing.

Prehospital knowledge base

The ESO Research Forum is a partnership through the Prehospital Care Research Forum at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"It made perfect sense to team up with the Prehospital Care Research Forum to make data and research methodology accessible to answer questions from participants across the nation and add to the body of prehospital knowledge," Crowe said.

ESO's Research Forum is open to anyone who is interested in learning to conduct EMS research projects. The only prerequisites, Crowe added, are an open mind and the desire to learn.

"We bring together clinical mentors, statisticians and those with a background in academic writing to provide participants with hands-on experience throughout the research process – from developing a study objective statement to drafting a peer-reviewed manuscript," Crowe said.

Ultimately, the Research Forum is designed to empower individuals with an interest in EMS research.

ESO Research Forum database

Above all, the protection of patients' data is imperative. Therefore, the Research Forum's database only contains de-identified patient care records from EMS agencies that choose to share their data.

"The 2018 dataset contains 7.58 million patient care records from more than 1,200 agencies across the country," Crowe said. "Additionally, a subpopulation of EMS agencies and hospitals participate in Health Data Exchange, with makes outcome data such as ICD10 codes and length of stay available for research."

While Crowe understands the concerns EMS agencies have in regard to protecting their patient data, she also stresses the value of contributing data for research.

"Findings from projects undertaken at the ESO Research Forum are shared with national audiences through conferences and peer-reviewed publications, so a broad range of EMS professionals and stakeholders can benefit from the work being conducted using shared data," she explained.

Beyond overcoming data sharing hesitance, Crowe added that there are also challenges with analyzing data from a variety of sources.

Understanding the data

Because data definitions and documentation practices vary from one EMS agency to the next, the ESO dataset complies with the National Emergency Medical Services Information System standard.

"Some agencies may emphasize documentation in discrete fields that can be queried, while others document primarily in the narrative, which makes performing queries difficult," Crowe said. "Encouraging the use of national data definitions and documentation in discrete fields enhances the ability to make meaningful comparisons across agencies."

Understanding data elements, sources and potential areas for documentation variation, Crowe mentioned, is a critical part of using patient care record data for research.

And, at the end of the day, Crowe whole-heartedly believes that EMS data can make a significant difference and a positive impact.

"For this reason, I chose to study public health and I'm proud to work with a team that's dedicated to using EMS data to improve population health," she said. "It's incredibly encouraging for me to see increased interest in performing high-quality EMS research that will improve the health and safety of not only our patients, but our EMS professionals as well."

For those who are interested in joining ESO's Research Forum at the 2019 Wave conference, you must register by March 14. And, remember – all you have to do is bring an open mind and the desire to learn.

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