Our nation's health care system is in flux. Efforts to reduce cost and improve the effectiveness of health care are leading to fundamental changes in the way the public accesses-and pays for-medical treatment. Recognizing the skills and strengths of prehospital professionals and the importance of superior EMS care, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Health Resources and Services Administration joined with leaders from the EMS community in 1996 to create a strategic plan for building the next millennium's EMS system.
The EMS Agenda for the Future envisions EMS as the linchpin joining today's isolated public safety, health care and public health systems. While emergency response must remain our foundation, EMS of tomorrow will be a community-based health management system that provides surveillance, identification, intervention and evaluation of injury and disease. This role strengthens the essential value of EMS as the community's emergency medical safety net.
The EMS community has again come together to develop the EMS Agenda for the Future: Implementation Guide. It focuses on three strategies for realizing our vision. We need to build bridges between EMS and other components of the community health care system; we need to create infrastructure that supports streamlined public access and rapid delivery of emergency care; and we need to develop new tools and resources. All too often, we travel no deeper than broad generalities, but I am proud to say that inside you will find the concrete steps we must take to build the 21st Century's EMS system.
We now have a common vision, a common goal. If the EMS Agenda is our destination, then the Implementation Guide will be our roadmap. Together, we can strengthen the nation's emergency medical safety net.