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MAY 2014

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How EMS Data Saves Lives

On any given day, thousands of America’s 212 million licensed drivers call 911 for emergency help. A realistic scenario: A young mother just crashed her car along a busy highway. She has a head injury, her husband has been knocked unconscious, and their 3-year-old daughter wails from her car seat in the back seat. The mother calls 911, and when the ambulance arrives from one of the Nation’s 21,283 Emergency Medical Service (EMS) agencies, EMS providers recognize the potentially life-threatening injuries of the husband and radio for a helicopter to transport him to a Level 1 trauma center. That one call to 911 may save a life.

Nearly everywhere in America, dialing 911 brings the help you need, where you need it, thanks to the Nation’s Emergency Medical Services system. You may have seen the universal symbol for EMS, called the Star of Life, on ambulances and the uniforms of EMS providers. The six arms of the Star of Life describe what happens from the 911 call to arrival at the hospital. EMS providers assess each patient, provide immediate emergency medical care, and follow protocols to take each person to the hospital that can meet their needs. Some may need the specialized services of a trauma center, and others may need the community hospital.

EMS professionals (over 826,000 in 2011) follow detailed protocols using real-time EMS data and evidence-based technology to achieve the best outcome for injured motorists. Even before the ambulance arrives at the hospital, doctors and nurses often use EMS data to plan treatment.

After each person’s injuries have been treated, EMS data is used again—to make continuous improvements in emergency medical care. Perhaps one of the most important uses of EMS data is to prevent injuries from happening in the first place, by analyzing how, where, and when certain injuries occur and developing countermeasures to prevent the crash.

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