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SAFR Guidance to Aid EMS Providers in Health Data Exchange

ONC recently published its SAFR guide to help emergency care providers improve health data exchange.

Health Data Exchange

Source: Thinkstock

- ONC published a guide to aid Emergency Medical Services (EMS) organizations in data integration to improve patient care through their Search, Alert, File, Reconcile (SAFR) model for health data exchange earlier this year.

“Access to patient information from an HIE organization is especially important to field paramedics and emergency department (ED) staff,” stated the report.

Given the especially fast-paced, mobile nature of EMS patient care, getting all necessary information on a patient’s health history is not always easy.

“Patients or their families may be unable to provide reliable information that can affect initial care decisions and long-term outcomes,” continued the report. “Knowledge of relevant health data, such as recent hospitalizations, past medical history, medications, allergies, preferred health care facilities, as well as end-of-life decisions, enables EMS providers to provide the most appropriate prehospital patient care and ensure transport to the proper health care facility.”

With the help of the State of California Emergency Medical Services Agency (EMSA), ONC developed guidance to EMS personnel information through the SAFR model, which is designed to help EMS providers improve bidirectional health data exchange between HIEs and EMS providers to improve care quality and research.

SAFR represents the following EMS objectives: 

Search: Improve prehospital clinical decision-making and patient care.

Alert: Improve receiving hospital preparedness, transitions of care, and patient care.

File: Build a better longitudinal patient record.

Reconcile: Improve overall care and population health.

SAFR’s emphasis on a better longitudinal patient health record stems from a lack of HIE connections among EMS providers, which may have a negative impact on patient care delivered en route to the appropriate healthcare facility. 

“Currently, few EMS systems are connected to an HIE organization or to other electronic health records systems,” stated the report.

The ONC SAFR guide outlines the value of health data exchange capabilities for EMS to optimize services by offering EMS personnel access to patient demographic, allergy, and recent hospitalization information that could be crucial at the point of care.

Integrating patient health data into EMS provider workflows and sharing prehospital data with other EMS and inpatient hospital providers could lead to improved health outcomes and better care coordination when patients finally present in the hospital.

Among listed factors EMS organizations should consider to succeed in health data exchange integration is the necessity to partner with a health information exchange with proper resources and a critical volume of patient data.

“The Initiatives noted that the communities should not underestimate the need for a robust and operational HIE organization with technical resources to assist EMS agencies and ePCR vendors in building and testing required interfaces,” noted the report.

ONC also emphasized the importance of developing an understanding among stakeholders regarding the importance of building the necessary infrastructure and functionality to support a strong HIE connection for EMS providers.

Working with vendors and educating EMS providers on the benefits of a robust EMS HIE connection is also a key step in gaining support for improved data integration.   

Additionally, as is the case with health data exchange elsewhere in the industry, ONC highlighted the importance of EMS data standardization. Similar to other healthcare organizations, EMS organizations should prioritize community-wide data standards for improved interoperability.

“One example of an important community advancement toward standardization is the adoption of NEMSIS Version 3 data standards and upgrading older systems to enable interoperability that can facilitate health data communication and support EMS and ED provider workflow,” stated the report.

Finally, ONC offered five examples of EMS settings properly connected to HIEs including California, Denver, Indianapolis, Oklahoma, and Rochester. By following in the footsteps of these HIE connected EMS organizations, the EMS community can optimize their EHR technology to improve prehospital care. 

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