EMS Policies and Procedures: The Heart of Emergency Care

EMS Policies and Procedures: The Heart of Emergency Care

Written by ComplianceBridge Policies & Procedures Team on February 22, 2022

In New York City, four years after civilians started the first emergency medical service (EMS) in Chicago in 1865, it was the standard operating procedure for Bellevue Hospital to equip their ambulances with an emergency quart of brandy for each patient they responded to. A hundred and fifty-three years later, despite some objections, EMS policies and procedures have changed, and the quart of brandy is sadly no more. 

Providing the majority of out-of-hospital care, EMS services are an essential part of the American medical infrastructure. Responding to almost 28.5 million 911 calls a year, first responders provide life-saving emergency treatment, transportation, interfacility treatment, prehospital care, and notes to medical staff that helps guide treatment. Behind the scenes of this is a complex system of policies and procedures. These policies and procedures are designed to ensure each call is handled effectively, from dispatching ambulances to making sure first responders have the knowledge required to provide a high standard of care while making difficult decisions and complying with applicable laws. 

The Complex Web That Is Emergency Medical Services

The first thought for many when hearing EMS is of first responders arriving in an ambulance to provide emergency care. While they play a vital role within the system, providing emergency medical care is a team effort and involves a wide variety of people and agencies.

  • Communication Network — Beginning with the 911 dispatcher, the backbone of the EMS is its communication network that communicates with and manages the logistics of the system.
  • Response and Transportation — The highly trained medical personnel arrive at the scene to administer treatment and provide care during transportation.
  • Treatment Facilities — The hospitals, specialty care clinics, rehabilitation facilities, trauma centers, and other organizations that receive patients.
  • Medical Professionals — The physicians, nurses, therapists, and others help receive the patient and communicate with an ambulance crew. 

Each department faces situations that require quick problem-solving and decision-making skills. Beyond the various frontline departments within each EMS, the organizational structure that supports them is also incredibly complex. The funding for emergency medical services and who manages them depends on location and can vary significantly between states, counties, cities, or even communities.

  • Government Provided EMS — Operated separately from other emergency services like fire or law enforcement, a government-provided EMS is funded by the government.
  • Fire/Police-Linked Services — More common in rural areas where a separate ambulance service may be too expensive, these EMS operate out of a fire or police department. They may include fire or law enforcement personnel, as well. 
  • Hospital-based EMS — Some hospitals offer an ambulance service for their community, typically when other options are unreliable or cost-prohibitive. 
  • Volunteer EMS — Various charities and non-profit companies operate ambulance services.
  • Private Ambulance Services — Commercial businesses that local and national governments oftentimes contract. The services provided depend on the area but can include transportation, non-emergency responses, or even emergency care.

With so many different people and organizations involved, it is easy to see that the EMS machine has many moving parts. Beyond its size, the changing landscape of medicine means their policies and procedures must change frequently. Because of this, the professionals that make up the EMS system must be trained on new EMS policies and procedures regularly to ensure that the highest level of care can be provided to those in need. 

Guiding EMS Policies and Procedures 

Because of the complex nature of the emergency medical services system, some protocols have been established that all EMS professionals must adhere to. While the wording will be different for each group, these are the core policies that guide the actions of the ems system. 

  • System and Organizational Policies — The blueprint used to build everything else. They provide clear information on the agency standards, establish roles, and are the framework for the other policies.
  • Personnel & Training — These EMS policies and procedures serve many functions. Beginning at the hiring stage by setting hiring standards and continuing for the entire time of employment by defining the proper training and certifications needed, these policies ensure that all personnel are compliant.
  • Communications — With so many departments, proper communication is critical. The communication policies give employees standard operating procedures so that contact is consistent and clear. This can include radio frequencies, acronyms, or other information.
  • Response & Transportation — Because they must make decisions quickly, there are procedures in place to guide response. These policies can include how to brace a neck, perform field triage, AED guidelines, determine how to transport the patient, or many other duties.
  • Facilities — Once the patient is loaded into the ambulance or helicopter; policies indicate where to transport patients. These policies use injuries, need for specialty care, or even preference to help EMS professionals determine the best location for the patient.
  • Quality Improvement — Always striving to be better, EMS services have policies and procedures to promote improvement, such as incident reporting, investigating, and testing.

Reviewed regularly and revised as needed by medical experts, these EMS policies and procedures help guarantee EMS professionals are following the best medical practices and provide a consistent level of care is received each time. They also give EMS personnel the tools to make quick divisions and save lives while remaining compliant with all laws and regulations.

A Complex Organization Needs a Comprehensive P&P Management System

In an emergency situation, every second counts. For those that respond to them, having the right tools can mean the difference in saving a life or not. Having good EMS policies and procedures are crucial to an effective EMS system but managing them can be time-consuming and confusing. Providing your employees with the most up-to-date, easy-to-find policies and procedures empowers them to succeed, which can mean life or death to the people they help.

When it comes to helping with complex problems, ComplianceBridge has years of expertise and knowledge to pull from. With an organized policy library, your employees will always have the resources they need, and automatic distribution when policies or procedures change ensures they’ll always have the correct information. To ensure sufficient comprehension of new or updated policies and procedures, ComplianceBridge also allows you to create custom policy quizzes. By tracking results as personnel respond, ComplianceBridge does much more than provide you a policy management solution. Our software helps you track employee compliance. 

If you’re reading to untangle the complexities of managing your policies and procedures—EMS or otherwise—ComplianceBridge is ready to help. Request a demo today to get started. 

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