The following passage is a portion of The National EMS Research Agenda commissioned by the US Department of Transportation.
“The National EMS Research Agenda describes the history and current status of EMS research. The [Agenda] describes a culture of EMS that has been slow to respond to, recognize, and utilize the potential that exists in technology and science today. Despite more than 30 years of dedicated service…the nation's EMS system is treating victims of illness and injury with little or no evidence that the care they provide is optimal. The time for major advancement in the science and practice of EMS is here. Emergency Medical Service providers must be able to deliver state of the art care based on sound scientific knowledge.
[However], the problem of translating research into practice is especially difficult in EMS. Most EMS professionals are not trained to critically evaluate new treatments and so they do not possess the skills to decide whether evidence truly supports their use. Therefore, EMS agencies should employ physicians with the expertise to evaluate new treatments and with the ability to develop and improve patient care protocols based on scientific findings. These physicians should work to educate EMS providers about the scientific process of linking research findings to clinical care. This relationship will provide an environment in which EMS personnel will be able to adopt new protocols with an understanding of how decisions were made. The culture within EMS needs to change to promote research and demand evidence before implementing new system modifications, medications, or drug therapies.
The absence of funding for major EMS research represents a huge obstacle to improving the health of the public. Researchers cannot perform research without financial support. Most research accomplished to date within EMS has been conducted on shoestring budgets using volunteer labor, surplus supplies, and in-kind contributions from hospitals, medical schools, and EMS agencies. Despite the lack of a concerted and focused effort, the advances in EMS that have occurred historically are remarkable. However, failing to intentionally plan for and fund EMS research will likely delay discoveries that have the potential to save untold numbers of lives. A national investment in the EMS research infrastructure is necessary to overcome obstacles currently impeding the accumulation of essential evidence of the effectiveness of EMS practice. Funding is required to train new researchers and to help them establish their careers.
Research is the key to maintaining focus on improving the overall health of the community in a competitive and cost conscious health care market. Most importantly, research is essential to ensure that the best possible patient care is provided in the prehospital setting. [Therefore], we are seeking support for elevating the science of EMS and prehospital care to the next level. It is essential that we examine innovative ways to deliver prehospital care. Strategies to protect the safety of both the patient and the public safety worker must be devised and tested.
There are many questions that remain to be asked, many practices to be evaluated, and many procedures to be improved. Research is the key to obtaining the answers. A number of us, our families, or our friends will at some point turn to local EMS providers for assistance; and we expect that they will provide us with the best care possible.”
The National Research Consortium for Emergency Medical Services, founded by NIEMS, was conceived as a response to the above “call for action” by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA). The entire NHTSA research agenda document may be found at the following web site: www.ems.gov