Organized Research Effort Needed
A well-organized EMS research effort is clearly needed to dramatically increase the evidence upon which prehospital patient care is based. “Public and private organizations responsible for EMS structures, processes and/or outcomes must collaborate to establish a national EMS research agenda. They should determine general research goals and assist with development of research funding sources.”1
The authors of this document discussed the utility of creating a list of specific research topics that would be of value in EMS. However, there are compelling arguments against creating such a list. Individual investigators or research teams rather than committees usually generate the best new ideas. In addition, because of the rapid pace of change in the medical sciences, lists are usually out of date by the time they are published. The writing team agreed that valuable research topics would certainly include the following:
· Ensuring proper and effective patient care.
· Improving the quality of EMS care and systems.
· Improving patient safety by reducing errors.
· Analysis of the cost-effectiveness of systems and interventions.
· Measuring the direct, indirect, and marginal costs of emergency medical services.
· Providing information about the clinical aspects of emergency care, systems configuration and operation.
· Encouraging effective injury prevention strategies and other public health measures.
· Expanding the appropriate use of medical informatics in EMS.
· Developing valid tools and methods for measuring the quality of EMS care and systems.
· Learning effective ways to provide professional education, training, and retraining that will maximize skill acquisition and retention and improve practice patterns and patient outcomes.
· Determining effective methods of public education that effect positive behavioral changes in the areas of injury prevention, basic emergency care skills, and the use of EMS systems.
EMS systems must justify their role in the health care process. They must prove that the care and transportation they provide is necessary and delivered in an effective and economical manner. These mandates can only be achieved by true integration of the research process into the system. Research will lead to the development of more effective treatments, strategies for resource management that benefit the EMS system, and ultimately to improved patient care.