It stands to reason that the sooner you get to the scene of an accident the better, but response time may not in fact be the best benchmark for emergency medical services (EMS). According to the Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS), too much emphasis on speed may lead to increased risks and expenses for very little return.
For years, response times have been the chief measure of effectiveness for EMS, but studies have shown that response times between five and fifteen minutes showed no measurable effect in patient outcomes. So what should the measures be?
The quality of clinical interventions.
Based on input from medical directors in the 50 largest U.S. cities, JEMS suggests the diagnosis and treatment of ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), respiratory distress, and trauma reactions should be the main three benchmarks.
STEMI, in layman’s terms, is a type of heart attack, and first responders need to know things like whether or not to administer aspirin and how to properly interpret a nine-point electrocardiograph (ECG). For Trauma patients, whether or not to move the patient immediately and being able to correctly identify a condition like a stroke, then deliver the patient to the correct hospital or unit, is essential. When EMS technicians are faced with a patient with a respiratory condition, again, the correct diagnosis and treatment makes the difference. For example, determining whether condition is asthma or something else, or if it is appropriate to administer nitroglycerin.
We tend to like the idea of the ambulance burning rubber on the way to an emergency and arriving in minutes to save the day, but the reality is that it’s a lot more important what first responders do when they get there, rather then when.