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EMS Agenda for the Future

The EMS Agenda for the future is a strategic plan and needs assessment to guide the development of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) into the twenty-first century.

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EMS community charts its future

The agenda examines what has been learned during the past three decades and creates a vision for the future of EMS. This vision comes at a time when agencies, organizations, and individuals who affect EMS are evaluating their role in the context of a rapidly evolving health care system.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Health Resources and Services Administration, together with the National Association of State Emergency Medical Services Directors, the National Association of EMS Physicians and others, realized the need to develop an EMS Agenda for the Future as a guide for EMS providers, health care organizations and institutions, and government agencies and policymakers.

The development of the vision included the appointment of a steering committee representing a cross-section of the EMS community, the scheduling of focus groups, and the distribution of the draft document to roughly 500 interested EMS organizations and individuals for extensive peer review. Finally, a Blue Ribbon Conference held in December 1995 brought the EMS community together to finalize the vision for the future.

The Vision

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) of the future will be community-based health management that is fully integrated with the overall health care system. It will have the ability to identify and modify illness and injury risks, provide acute illness and injury care and follow-up, and contribute to the treatment of chronic conditions and community health monitoring. This new entity will be developed from redistribution of existing health care resources, and will be integrated with other health care providers and public health and public safety agencies. It will improve community health and result in more appropriate use of acute health care resources. EMS will remain the public's emergency medical safety net.

To realize this vision, the EMS Agenda for the Future proposes continued development of 14 EMS attributes. They are:

  • Integration of health services
  • EMS research
  • Legislation and regulations
  • System finance
  • Human resources
  • Medical direction
  • Education systems
  • Integration of health services
  • EMS research
  • Legislation and regulations
  • System finance
  • Human resources
  • Medical direction
  • Education systems

What does the future hold?

The EMS Agenda for the Future makes some basic predictions about the nature of the future and the environment in which EMS will exist. These predictions include:

  • EMS will represent the intersection of public safety, public health, and health care systems;
  • EMS will continue in some form; and the public expects that it will continue.
  • EMS will continue to be diverse at the local level;
  • As a component of health care systems, EMS will be influenced significantly by its continuing evolution;
  • There will be increasing need for information regarding EMS systems and outcomes.
  • It will be necessary to continue to make some EMS system-related decisions on the basis of limited information;
  • The media will continue to influence the public's perception of EMS;
  • Federal funding/financial resources will be decreasing;
  • To make good decisions, public policymakers will need to be well informed about EMS issues.

How to make the vision a reality

All of us have some responsibility for ensuring the health of EMS in the future.

The EMS Agenda for the Future will help guide EMS providers, health care organizations and institutions, governmental agencies and policymakers. All must be committed to improving the health of their communities and to ensuring that EMS efficiently contributes to that goal. They must invest the resources necessary to provide the nation's population with emergency health care that is reliable, accessible, effective, subject to continuous evaluation, and integrated with the remainder of the health system.

As EMS systems continue to look for ways of delivering emergency critical care in a more cost-effective and efficient manner, there are several initiatives that should be considered to strengthen the EMS "team" These include:

  • Expand the role of EMS in public heath and prevention.
  • Invoke EMS in community health monitoring.
  • Integrate EMS with other health care provider and provider networks.
  • Be cognizant of the special needs of the entire population.

Forming new partnerships

Our ability to achieve the vision for the future of EMS will depend on our commitment to work together, and to form new partnerships and new relationships. The EMS Agenda for the Future would suggest at least the following partners:

  • Managed care industry
  • Fire service
  • Ambulance industry
  • Academic medical/institution research
  • Consumer
  • Economist
  • Physician
  • State EMS Directors
  • Elected leader
  • Public health agent
  • Communications expert
  • Education specialist

Together, we can achieve the vision-we can create a more effective, efficient, and accountable EMS system that is better integrated with the rest of the health care system and that better meets the needs of our patients for decades to come. Join us in this opportunity!

For more information contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). Emergency Medical Services Division, 400 Seventh Street, SW, NTS-14, Washington, DC 20590 or Fax your request to (202) 366-7721.