Introduced EMS Bill Calls for Enhancements

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A bill to improve the nation's pre-hospital care system including recognizing Health and Human Services (HHS) as the lead federal agency for EMS has been introduced in Congress by U.S. Representatives Tim Walz, D-MN, and Sue Myrick, R-NC.

The Field EMS Quality, Innovation and Cost-Effectiveness Improvements Act of 2011 outlines specific issues to enhance the delivery of EMS care.

While a similar measure was introduced last December in the waning hours of Congress, this bill is more comprehensive and specifically outlines that EMS should fall under HHS with a director appointed by the Secretary; establishes a grant program; calls for enhanced research initiatives; and says national guidelines should be established for physicians who direct or oversee pre-hospital providers.

Advocates for EMS -- the primary organization responsible the legislation -- said in a statement: "The bill does not add to the federal deficit. It establishes an Emergency Medical Services Trust Fund to be funded by voluntary contributions made by taxpayers when filing their federal income tax forms for the purpose of funding the grant programs provided in this legislation. The legislation directs the Secretary of HHS to utilize discretionary funds for start up funding for the programs under the Office of EMS and Trauma."

Officials added that they feel the bill "addresses many of the challenges plaguing EMS to better fulfill public expectations that all who need emergency medical and trauma care in the field can depend upon the highest quality of care and transport to the most appropriate clinical setting."

Some of the issues addressed include:

• Improved Quality and Accountability: Enhancing Field EMS quality by promoting the development of national guidelines for medical oversight by physicians of field EMS, promoting high-quality medical direction and maximizing participation and training of physician medical direction, evaluation by GAO of medical liability and reimbursement issues that may impede medical direction, enhance data collection and analysis to better inform the provision of high quality field EMS, development of a path toward integration of field EMS medical reports into patients electronic medical records.

• Evaluation of Innovative Delivery Models: Evaluating innovative models for access and delivery of field EMS for patients, including alternative dispositions of patients for whom transport to the hospital is not medically necessary.

• Enhanced Research: Enhancing research in field EMS by authorizing a Field EMS Practice Center and delineating specified funding streams for other federal EMS research to further improve quality, outcomes and promote the adoption of cost-effective treatments in the field.

Lisa Tofil, an attorney who prepared the bill on behalf of Advocates for EMS said in a prepared statement: "This news comes after many months of hard work that our sponsors, supporters and partners across the EMS and trauma community have put into developing this comprehensive legislation addressing the challenges confronting EMS. In promoting the development of the bill, Advocates for EMS has worked through an open and consensus driven process, including three summits, numerous drafts and lots of feedback to achieve introduction."