What is Emergency Medical Services (EMS)?

EMS development began in 1966 when the Committees on Trauma and Shock of the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council published the report "Accidental Death and Disability: The Neglected Disease of Modern Society." This report made the public greatly aware of the need to provide proper care to the sick and injured.

Due to increasing public awareness, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (DHEW), through the Highway Safety Act of 1966 and Emergency Medical Services Act of 1973, respectively, created much needed funding to develop and greatly improve prehospital care. By the early 1970's, local EMS systems emerged under the guidance of many levels of government.

The next step was to increase the consistency of training and care which individuals received. The 1980's brought change in establishing continuing education including hands-on skills, certifications, and mandatory requirements. Although care was improving, it continued to lack in many areas of the country.

By the 1990's, the value and responsibilities of the EMT has increased. Now nearly 50 percent of the population is served by a paramedic level service who has the capabilities of providing advanced life support. Along with the increased skill of paramedics, EMT's are gaining skills such as defibrillation, the use of automatic external defibrillators (AED's).

Essential elements of an effective EMS System include:

  • An advisory council on emergency medical service
  • Physician-directed medical control, including quality control review.
  • EMT training programs, including continuing education programs.
  • Instructor training programs.
  • A communications system, including system access.
  • Dispatch centers.
  • Ambulance services.
  • EMT and emergency department personnel rapport and trust.
  • Reports and records.
  • Ongoing system evaluation with quality assurance, risk management, and outcome study programs.
  • Disaster plans.
  • Public information and education programs.
  • Categorized hospital emergency capabilities.
  • Funding.
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