In counties across North Carolina and South Carolina, emergency medical services providers are collecting better data on the job they're doing in order to provide better care for patients.
With support from The Duke Endowment, projects to develop statewide, centralized data systems are ongoing in both North Carolina and South Carolina. The Endowment also is providing support for a project to develop specialized toolkits that analyze data and provide individual EMS providers with recommendations for improving their responses in emergency situations.
Cindy Raisor, RN, is the South Carolina EMS Data Project Coordinator for the EMS Performance Improvement Center (EMSPIC). She said, "We're working with 252 agencies, bringing them on board with the data system used in North Carolina. We'll be implementing the EMS toolkits, as well."
From Paper Forms to Electronic Data System
Initially, 10 EMS departments were chosen to start reporting data, among them Colleton County Fire-Rescue. Assistant Chief David Greene explains, "Prior to this, EMS systems reported mostly via paper forms — not too desirable from a central reporting standpoint. Operationally, this electronic system should be much more efficient."
Identifying Trends and Reducing Risks
The data collected via the system can be helpful on several levels. In addition to improving EMS response, Greene envisions using knowledge from the data in prevention efforts. "We can take a look at the types of calls we're running and use that data in risk reduction," he said. "For example, if we see significant numbers of pediatric burns, we can address that issue by educating children about burn prevention."
In Greenville County, S.C., EMS providers are using the data system as a way to establish and evaluate performance goals. "This system is a huge leap in our ability to compare ourselves to other systems in the state," said John Zaragoza, Director of EMS Administration for Greenville County. "It allows us to look at individual performance, identify better ways to meet our population's needs and note focus areas for continuing education."
Impacting Preparation, Training and Collaboration
Chad Burrell, Director of Laurens County EMS, agreed. "This system lets us gather data on patient types, ages, and what we see more or less of at certain times of the year to help us prepare with training and medications," he said. "It's also great for tracking the resources available at other EMS systems. If one system has a massive incident, supervisors can use this software to check other resources available in the pool."
Raisor and Dr. Greg Mears, a nationally recognized expert and director of the EMS Performance Improvement Center, provide ongoing support for EMS providers using the data system and toolkits. "Their dedication and passion about improving has been a benefit not just to us, but to our citizens," said Greene.
For Zaragoza, the support from the Endowment as well as from the center helped to make a massive undertaking—implementing a new data system—much smoother. "The constant communication with their office has made this process a lot simpler than I expected. It's a huge success."
Lin B. Hollowell III
Director of Health Care