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Christopher Jason

SSM Health will now provide its local EMS personnel with real-time access to EHR patient data.

SSM Health, a non-profit health system made up with 11,000 providers in Wisconsin, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Illinois, announced a connection to the ESO Health Data Exchange, which enables interoperability between emergency medical services (EMS) personnel and EHR patient data.

Interoperability and patient data sharing between first responders and hospitals is not always timely. However, this connection allows SSM Health to integrate patient data into its connected EMS documentation systems.

“This technology is the future of healthcare, setting the standard for integration between the pre-hospital and hospital environments,” Kacey Kronenfeld, MD, SSM Health EMS program medical director, said in a statement.

“It will allow us to streamline the way we communicate with our EMS partners, and thus, provide a higher level of exceptional care to our patients.”

The EMS record connects directly to the SSM Health’s EHR, and in real-time, the health system’s clinical outcome data is made available to EMS personnel on a secure portal. This data includes patient demographics, billing, vitals and procedures with results, emergency room physician notes, lab results, and imaging results.

Real-time access to this data enhances care coordination in-and-out of SSM Health facilities and leads to improved patient outcomes.

Efficient and timely access is especially crucial during a health crisis, such as COVID-19, Kronefeld said. 

SSM Health is the first health system in Wisconsin to connect to ESO Health Data Exchange, and Fitch-Rona EMS is one of the first EMS agencies to attach its documentation system to the health system.

“First responders often treat patients and never learn about their outcomes,” Patrick Anderson, chief of Fitch-Rona EMS, said in a statement. “We will have access to that health information and our caregivers can receive feedback on their efforts, which will allow us to better serve our community.”

Leaders at SSM Health said they are aiming to add as much as 50 EMS agencies to the ESO Health Data Exchange collaborative.

Health organizations and health information exchanges (HIEs) across the country are aiming to improve interoperability and allow easier EHR data access to EMS workers.

Within the last year, the American Heart Association launched a collaborative initiative to improve EHR data access for EMT personnel.

To make this happen, American Heart Association partnered with an emergency health IT company, RapidSOS, to connect EMS personnel with real-time patient data.

“Heart disease and stroke are the first and fifth leading causes of death in the United States. If emergency medical responders had access to a patient’s medical information when arriving on-scene, this could dramatically change the way in which care is delivered and tailored to the person’s medical needs,” Michael Kurz, MD, chair of the American Heart Association’s Systems of Care Subcommittee, said at the time of the announcement.

“Delays in recognition and treatment of time-sensitive conditions like heart attacks, strokes and cardiac arrest can be the difference between life and death,” Kurz continued. “RapidSOS helps us close the gap between emergency medical response and patients, resulting in better and more efficient emergency care.”

AHA said they want to simplify the communication between individuals who call 911 and responders. Instead of having the individual communicate her personal and clinical information over the phone in a stressful situation, the collaboration enables public safety personnel to access critical health data, such as patient medical history, medications, allergies, and emergency contacts, for a more timely, streamlined response.

Also in 2019, California’s statewide HIE, Manifest MedEx, received a $4.9 million grant from the Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) to promote interoperability with EMS personnel.

This grant connects six California EMS agencies, 13 EMS providers, and 16 hospitals across the state, to enable interoperability.

In 2017, ONC published its SAFR guide to help EMS services link bidirectional health data exchange with HIEs.

A lack of HIE connection to EMS providers is why ONC put an emphasis on a better longitudinal patient health record. This disconnect had a negative impact on patient care between the time a patient is cared for in an emergency situation and the healthcare facility.