Effective Emergency Medical Services Crucial to Rural Communities

What kind of health care system makes one of its most important rural components dependent upon bake sales and calendars for operating resources? Unfortunately, that is the situation in many rural places for their first-line and often life-saving emergency medical services (EMS). Many rural EMS providers are underfunded and face workforce and volunteer shortages. EMS agencies have placed growing demands and health care responsibilities on their often volunteer workforces.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, many EMS providers have inadequate communications infrastructure and are often isolated from the rest of the health care delivery system. A major example is the lack of access EMS providers have to medical records and medical history, something health information technology could potentially resolve if EMS providers were able to obtain the resources to connect with other rural providers.

Lack of integration is another EMS issue. Making EMS a true part of the rural health care system will provide a more efficient system that provides better care for patients. EMS agencies are often served by transportation programs. Being seen as transporters rather than health care providers does not integrate EMS into the larger health care delivery system.

Health care reform legislation can recognize the important role EMS providers and services provide in rural communities, particularly by recognizing EMS as the first-line for many in the rural health care delivery system and by providing resources to such services for enhanced communication technology and access to health information technology.

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