Top 3 Challenges EMS Workers are Facing
EMS professionals convene at Medline to discuss latest trends and challenges
By Medline Newsroom Staff | November 11, 2019
Nearly a dozen emergency medical service (EMS) professionals from around the country recently gathered at Medline headquarters in Illinois to discuss important industry challenges such as regulatory, financial, and operational demands, give feedback on Medline strategy and product line and network with peers and influencers from across the country. Insights from the meeting will be used to help Medline improve it broad range of services and solutions for EMS professionals.
This was the second EMS advisory board meeting Medline has hosted. Attendees discussed major trends including the regionalization of ambulatory services, the rise of telemedicine, and the growing need for disaster preparedness and safety. The meeting also underscored three key challenges trending nationwide: paramedic shortages, static reimbursement, and a lack of pharmaceutical supplies.
Despite projected employment growth of 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, demand for EMTs and paramedics is outpacing supply today. Advisory Board members said they are noticing a growing paramedic shortage throughout the United States. Their views are backed by research from The Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS), which cites various reasons for the national shortage, including “poor pay, working conditions, schedules, work type, and cultural” issues.
Reimbursement (or lack thereof)
Reimbursement for EMS has not changed much in recent years, and attendees say many EMS organizations are still only reimbursed on transport only, the majority of which come from Medicare. According to a 2016 JAMA study, EMS transported an estimated 14.6 million patients to a hospital and of those transports, 33% were billed to Medicare, 31% to private insurers, 20% to Medicaid, and 15% were self-pay.
Since Medicare makes ups the majority of calls, board attendees say EMS organizations want to see changes in how CMS reimburses them for their services. The recently-introduced Emergency Triage, Treat, and Transport (ET3) Model, a pilot program from CMS, may be a step in the right direction. Through the model, CMS will pay EMS agencies who transport patients to a primary care doctor’s office or an urgent care clinic, in addition to an emergency department. Around 16% of Medicare fee-for-service emergency ambulance transports to the emergency department could have been treated in lower acuity settings like a doctor’s office; transporting individuals to doctor’s offices rather than a hospital emergency department has the potential to generate $560 million in savings each year.
Pharmaceutical supply shortage
EMS providers continue to grapple with an ongoing shortage of Essential Emergency Medications (EEM), like Narcan® and Epinephrine, which negatively impact their ability to respond to public health emergencies and natural disasters. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) attributes these shortages to quality and manufacturing issues within the drug supply chain. In an effort to mitigate these shortages, the agency now requires drugmakers and distributors to coordinate closer with the FDA.
Learn what Medline is doing to help prepares EMS workers to take on daily challenges.