Electronic Health Records

Integration & Interoperability News

New initiative aims at integrating EMS into healthcare IT

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

- Health information technology is most useful at the point of care so why do so many emergency medical services (EMS) professionals lack access to patient health information where it is likely to prove so effective?

A new offshoot of the collaboration between the Offices of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) aims to address this question.

In a recent post on HealthITBuzz, Kevin Horahan and Tara Holland highlight the important role integrated health IT could play in improving emergency care and streamlining a patient’s entry into the continuum of care.

“EMS is both the gateway to and an integral part of the healthcare system,” they write. “Currently, few EMS systems are connected to a health information exchange or other electronic health/medical records system. There are many challenges to sharing of EMS data, including funding, proprietary systems, and a lack of collaboration.”

With the help of the ONC, the ASPR Emergency Collaboration Community (ECC) has launched its first campaign, Health Information Technology and EMS, which is a public forum for healthcare stakeholders “to discuss and share individual ideas about public health and medical emergency preparedness, response, and recovery.”

Much of the challenge of brining health IT to bear on EMS centers of having interoperable systems and the ability to support health information exchange. The purpose of the forum is to more or less brainstorm and crowdsource opportunities for integrating EMS into the continuum of care by removing barriers to exchange with supported ideas rising to the top.

“We hope to connect the emergency care, EMS, and HIT communities so they can share and discuss pilot projects, concepts, and initiatives related to health information exchange,” the forum’s homepage states. This forum also allows others to benefit from those experiences and the resulting knowledge base to avoid or overcome barriers.”

While healthcare organizations and providers have already recognized the importance of connection emergency rooms to other departments and clinical settings, integrating EMS would make valuable health information available closer to its point of origin and hopefully give ER clinicians the ability to prepare themselves for what’s on the way in.




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