4 Takeaways from Pinnacle 2021
Once again, and for the 15th time, EMS leaders came together for Pinnacle, held this year in Phoenix, Arizona. And once again the schedule was packed with a wide variety of seminars on recruitment and retention, technology, quality improvement, clinician mental health and well-being, policy, funding, and, of course, COVID-19. It was great to see familiar faces after so long and to make some new connections.
Now that I’m back, I’ve had some time to consider what I heard and saw. Here are a few highlights I brought home from Pinnacle 2021:
It’s time to truly embrace technologies that deliver quality improvement (QI). EMS organizations have always had data (even if it’s sometimes of questionable quality). But we haven’t always known what to do with it. But now there are more and better options for applying it than ever before.
For starters, I think of the work that Dr. Freddy Lippert and his colleagues are doing in Copenhagen, Denmark. More specifically, his recent research finding that machine learning, a subset of artificial intelligence (AI), can accurately predict sudden cardiac arrest during an emergency call based on information derived from “listening” to tens of thousands of previous calls. Research like this could help enable faster delivery of the right care and better patient outcomes.
QI also means integrating the currently disjointed systems with one another. We need systems that talk to one another—meaning the EMS system, the fire services system, the hospital system—so there is a continuum of care. That itself leads to improved quality and a reduction in errors, and it’s also where you get a more holistic patient experience.
Just as important, that integrated experience lets your caregivers focus on the right things. For example, if I’m a paramedic in the back of an ambulance and the ePCR is delivering validated patient data from the CAD, I don’t have to waste time looking for it or entering it manually. I’m able to focus on taking care of that patient. These are the things that help drive quality. Another benefit: A more holistic system gives you an even stronger pool of data, so you can take predictive AI to the next level.
We have to focus more on the “why.” Clearly, I’m a big believer in the value of technology to help solve problems in our industry and far beyond. And it was great to see so many technology providers, with a wide range of solutions, at Pinnacle. But Jay Fitch of Fitch & Associates offered everyone at the conference an important reminder: Know why you’re doing something before you tackle it. So before your agency or service purchases anything, it’s essential to know what you’re trying to accomplish and if your focus is on quality improvement, what, exactly, will you measure and why?
As an industry, EMS is getting better at questioning long-held beliefs like the use of lights and sirens and using response times as a meaningful metric, but we still need to do better at pushing ourselves to define the problem we’re solving and using evidence-based data to make decisions. So if, say, we want to track patients, we need to be able to answer why we’re doing so. Is it to improve survival rates? Patient satisfaction scores? Getting to the core of that helps us make much better decisions with respect to any technology (or other solutions) we choose to invest in.
Technology can help address EMS’s biggest challenge: staffing. A recurring theme at the conference (though not a new one) was the critical need to find more and better ways to recruit and retain staff. More than a few communities are in dire straits due to the very high rate of turnover, the result of low pay, the emotional and physical toll of the job, lack of opportunities for advancement and other factors. Dispatchers are also in short supply in many places. This, again, is where technology can help. For example, with our Logis IDS CAD, when predictive analytics are applied to handle and dispatch routine calls, telecommunicators are available for call-taking and customer service on far more complex calls that require a human touch.
Even better, an intelligent CAD that’s informed by AI delivers more detailed, real-time visualization of incidents, giving your call-takers better information and responders greater situational awareness. That, in turn, keeps them safer and allows them to do their job more efficiently and effectively. As your system uses machine learning and AI over time, it becomes smarter about your organization’s needs and patterns, too.
We need to keep the conversation going. It was really good to see people out again, and I think it was reassuring for people in the profession to know they aren’t alone—their colleagues are feeling the same pain they are, especially when it comes to staffing and funding. Sharing ideas is what Pinnacle has always been about for me: the chance to get together with colleagues and sometimes commiserate, sometimes find better solutions. When we come together, we look at emerging technologies and data and ask ourselves, “Can we do something better?”
COVID-19 has hit the fast-forward button on this process, and it’s now forcing agencies to evaluate which technologies are going to deliver services in what we all know is a different world. So whether you’re wrestling with CMS’s Emergency Triage, Treat, and Transport (ET3) model or implementing your own alternate destination or telehealth programs, you need technologies that seamlessly bring that care experience together. Using a dozen different products and crews with six apps on their phone isn’t good enough; these pieces must be integrated. At Pinnacle I saw and heard EMS leaders thinking about the technology that would take things to the next level for their agency and their community. And that’s exciting.
Please reach out to learn more about Logis Solutions and our suite of products for EMS, the fire service, mobile integrated healthcare, 911 and healthcare. We’d love to talk.