Quick Thoughts from EMS Today 2014

After an incredible week of learning, I'm not sure how "quick" my thoughts can be about this year's EMS Today conference in Washington DC. While I didn't get to see and do everything I could have wanted, I will fill you in on the highlights of my personal experience. Feel free to add comments below about things I may have missed.

For me, the week began with pre-conference workshops that included my first opportunity to participate on the instructional end of one of these sessions. Nothing helps you learn better than teaching others! In general, these are excellent opportunities to dig deeply into a special topic. In my case, the topic was system performance looking specifically at "Dynamic Deployment" not only as a tool, but as a process that involves careful planning and structural changes benefiting patients and management as well as individual providers. (Watch for a future post to summarize what was covered.) After that, I attended the abbreviated "Resuscitation Academy" with Drs. Michael Copass, Mickey Eisenberg, Tom Rea, Michael Sayre and others who taught me how to "bend" that familiar curve that normally reduces a patients chances of survival with VF by 10% for each minute to improve the possible outcome of ROSC leading to a successful hospital discharge.  By changing our mindset to one where "everyone survives" and recognizing the proper roles of both BLS and ACLS in working a code most effectively, the ideas in this course are something we all need to seriously take to heart. For some, the evening ended by recognizing the contributions of the top "EMS 10" awards of 2013 for contributions to our profession.

Thursday morning began with a session on the developing Health Information Exchange in San Diego for me.  This was outside my personal comfort zone and proved to be an interesting view of how hospitals percieve EMS and the challenges of working more closely with us to coordinate patient records and improve interaction in real-time. Imagine working with a 9-1-1 caller and hearing from their Medicaid case worker even before leaving the scene. My next stop was a discussion on opportunities for the fire service in "Mobile Integrated Healthcare" led by Matt Zavadsky and AJ Heightman.  It was a sobering review of where we have positioned ourselves as EMS professionals and how we can deal with our business changing from "emergency care" to "unscheduled medical services." The case was clearly laid before us that our challenge is in showing "value" not just in what we do to patients, but what we can do for our patients. The afternoon continued with an opening plenary presentation by Dr Alex Garza not only on national healthcare topics, but the specific challenges we face in redefining our profession.  My favorite comment (loosely paraphrased) was that both the service with a 50% CPR survival rate and the one with a 5% survival do the same things, the only difference is the attention to quality and details.  He charged that we must do better in the new healthcare world order that is focused on not only patient care, but patient satisfaction. Clearly we seem to be leaving the primary role of public safety and trespassing in the world of hospital-managed health care.

Friday was spent primarily on the exhibit hall floor. Visiting the vendors and seeing all of the gadgets and innovations is one of my favorite aspects of the conference. While only a few ideas struck me as truly revolutionary, like the INDEMO ambulance design or Loop for "gamifying" CPR, I discovered that most were only new to me.  Still many ideas were quite resourceful and provide real value. One of my favorites was Microdot for simply covering a glucometer with a bright orange rubber shell and putting everything I needed in a bright red zippered case. Never again will I loose this item on a dark floor.  I was also impressed by Microflex and Darn Tough for making nitrile gloves that don't break or socks that don't wear. And honorable mention to Transportation Safety Apparel for making a high-viz jacket combination at an incredible low price. For me, EMS Today is about practical ideas and tools that make the job easier and improve outcomes for patients. These qualities are always important to "High Performance EMS."

On Saturday, as the Olympics were being held over in Sochi, our own version of the emergency healthcare "atheletes" competed in the JEMS Games and the best were honored for exceptional performance. It is inspiring to be with friends and colleagues of this caliber and I am looking forward to EMS Today next year in back in Baltimore where I can continue to learn and be inspired.   

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