Tag Archives: public administration

SWOT Analysis: Day Kimball Healthcare

Day Kimball Healthcare (DKH) is a non-profit health care organization serving the northeastern Connecticut, southcentral Massachusetts and northwestern Rhode Island communities. The mission of DKH (2011) is “to meet the health needs of our community through our core values of clinical quality, customer service, fiscal responsibility and local control” (para. 4). A comprehensive health care system, DKH offers primary care and a multitude of medical and surgical specialties along with sophisticated diagnostics by offering a comprehensive network of more than 1,000 employees including more than 200 physicians, surgeons and specialists. DKH is comprised of Day Kimball Hospital, four community health care centers, Day Kimball HomeCare, Day Kimball Hospice & Palliative Care of Northeastern Connecticut, Day Kimball HomeMakers, and Physician Services of Northeast CT, LLC.

Services

DKH provides a host of services to the community, including:

  • primary medical care,

  • emergency medical care,

  • surgical care,

  • palliative and hospice care,

  • home health care, and

  • social services

DKH appears to strive towards providing a comprehensive health care solution to the community that is robust, yet limited in specialty, especially critical care, trauma, and pediatric services.

Environment

Population

The primary catchment area for DKH includes the Connecticut towns of Brooklyn, Canterbury, Eastford, Killingly, Plainfield, Pomfret, Putnam, Sterling, Thompson, and Woodstock, and the Rhode Island towns of Foster and Glocester. According to the available U.S. Census data (2010), the population served is nearly 92,000 with average growth in the last ten years of nearly 9%. The median age of the catchment population (37.8) is merely 3 months older than the median age of the Connecticut population (37.4). The median household income is $66,422 (CT: $67,034).

Competition

DKH is the primary health care provider within the defined catchment area. Some of the population, however, rely on three other community-level hospitals, Backus Hospital (Norwich, CT), Southbridge Hospital (Southbridge, MA), and Windham Hospital (Windham, CT). Additionally, some of the population with advanced disease processes rely strictly on the primary and emergency care services of the nearest urban centers (Worcester, MA, Hartford, CT, and Providence, RI), with many of DKH’s emergency patients transferred to these tertiary care centers for trauma, critical care, and pediatric specialties.

Environment

DKH, as a health care organization, can be adversely affected by patterns of infectious diseases within the community. As each season mounts, the health care system becomes overwhelmed and requires coordination between other health care facilities in the area.

Additionally, a large disaster would strain the resources of DKH; however, this would be a temporary issue, resolving as the disaster winds down. There is ample opportunity within the catchment area for a disaster to unfold, including traffic on the major highway that divides the catchment area as well as the number of large manufacturing entities in the area.

Assessment

Strengths. DKH provides comprehensive long-term health care to community members. DKH enjoys a strong and comprehensive relationship with a large network of physicians and other primary care providers.

Weaknesses. DKH has no intensivists, physicians with expertise in critical care, and provides very limited critical care service. As a result, DKH must transfer many cases to other facilities to rule in or rule out critical illnesses or injuries, which negatively affects earnings.

Another weakness lies in DKH’s reliance on electronic patient care reporting. DKH uses a number of patient care reporting platforms that do not integrate with each other. This creates a need for over-redundancy and opportunities for patient care errors. Further, a fully integrated system would allow for health care partners to access up-to-date patient care information without delay.

Opportunities. Opportunities exist for DKH to expand their services by further decentralizing the current services offered and concentrating on which scopes of service to expand or improve upon. By improving laboratory reporting standards and facilitating full integration of patient reporting, patients of DKH will be able to obtain a more standardized level of care throughout the health care continuum.

DKH should cultivate their relationship with the public by being more active and visible within the community performing screenings, vaccinations, blood drives, as well as other public relations endeavors.

Another opportunity exists with the patient population who suffer from critical illness or injury that is yet to be determined. These patients face risk in transport to tertiary care centers when, often times, the transfer is unwarranted by later findings. By cultivating relationships with specialties in the tertiary care centers, these patients could be more fully determined to need (or, not need) transfer to tertiary care centers, keeping the financial reward of caring for patients in-house while obtaining specialist coordination.

Threats. The largest threat to DKH, as with any organization, is its reputation within the community. Funding, which is largely based on governmental and private insurance providers, is also a considerable threat that must be managed continuously. However, other threats are significant and can be actively managed.

Pandemics are unlikely to occur but present catastrophic scenarios if they do, indeed, occur. Pandemic influenza, as well as other pandemic diseases, presents a situation of an increasing need for awareness and preparation.

Unpredictable weather in the northeastern Connecticut presents a likely and significant threat to the provision of health care. Recent and historical storms have proven to impede access and egress to and from patients both out in the community and at the hospital.

Discussion

This SWOT analysis is limited by the a posteriori knowledge and perceptions of the author, a paramedic who is active within the health care system, and it is limited in the scope of an academic exercise to practice SWOT analyses.

However, DKH has overcome many adversities in the past and continues to grow, but seemingly without proper direction. The efforts thus far seem disjointed and without a clear structure or coherent path into the future. DKH would benefit from an internal SWOT analysis that could be performed without the limitations inherent herein.

References

Day Kimball Healthcare. (2011). Day Kimball Healthcare. Retrieved from http://www.daykimball.org

U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). 2010 census data. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/

Prior Proper Planning …

… Prevents Poor Performance

I am in the midst of planning an ad hoc merger of a number of local emergency medical service agencies into a single regional provider to reduce overall costs while maximizing revenue, improve training and the delivery of care, and to streamline the operational processes that support our providers in the field. Unfortunately, I have found that there are many obstacles that need to be dealt with at every step before moving on to the next. My research has certainly opened my eyes to developing a useful approach to these problems.

Planning “[provides] the appropriate focus and direction for … organizations” (Zuckerman, 2006, p. 3). Without planning, organizations risk stagnation and obsolescence. For any organization to succeed (and continue to do so), the strategy needs to focus both on the contemporary traditional needs as well as those anticipated in the future, but this focus needs to be comprehensive. Bartling (1997) writes of 25 different pitfalls any health care organization might face when considering strategic planning. These 25 pitfalls are just some of the issues I hope to avoid.

One of the largest difficulties in planning for emergency medical systems, however, is the sense of ‘fiefdom’, or an assertion of organizational ownership — in a truly feudal sense. A fiefdom is a literal power trip. In this area, there are 10 towns with an average of two ambulances each, and each department’s administration will fight tooth and nail to keep the organization from outgrowing them. What is interesting about the area is that many of the members of one department work for at least two of the other departments, also. This is because the pay is so meager they have to work as many hours as possible, and there is no chance of working more than 32 hours at any one service in any given week. The pay is low as is the quality of care. This needs to change, but how do I create an amalgumated organization from the bits and pieces that I have to work with? Add to that my lack of formal authority in this process. My vision is to reduce the number of ambulances by staffing eight ambulances at all times and tactically positioning them around the region. This alone would create 48 well-paid jobs, using the same 40 people who currently job share across organizational lines.

In reviewing the available resources, I have learned that there is no particular process or flow-chart pathway to effective planning (Bartling, 1997; Begun & Kaissi, 2005; Zuckerman, 2006). Critical forward thinking is needed, instead. Some of the particular issues that Bartling (1997) discusses and I foresee might be particular to my planning process are: inadequate planning, short-sightedness, underestimating the complexity of the process, post-merger angst, analysis paralysis, and lack of evaluative criteria, to name a few. Politics plays a large role in many of these issues I mention.

Inadequate planning, short-sightedness, and a lack of evaluative criteria are closely related. I see in the present that the system does not work as well as it should (short-sightedness), and I want to develop a plan that can be implemented immediately (probably suffering inadequate planning). This would leave me with a fragmented system devoid of vision and, therefore, crippled from improving (lacking that evaluative criteria). These are pitfalls that I need to avoid. These issues would give rise to the others dooming my effort to failure and, possibly, leaving the system in even worse shape than it began.

Perhaps, my only chance of fulfilling this process is to first perform a limited situational assessment by identifying the mission, vision, and values of all of the stakeholders and show how a streamlined process can better fulfill their visions (Casciani, 2012). By gaining stakeholder support, I might better leverage my idea against those who fear change.

References

Bartling, A. (1997). 25 pitfalls of strategic planning. Healthcare Executive, 12(5), 20–23.

Begun, J. & Kaissi, A. (2005). An exploratory study of healthcare strategic planning in two metropolitan areas. Journal of Healthcare Management, 50(4), 264–274.

Casciani, S. J. (2012). Strategic planning. In S. B. Buckbinder & N. H. Shanks (Eds.), Introduction to healthcare management (Custom ed.; pp. 3-23). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Zuckerman, A. (2006). Advancing the state of the art in healthcare strategic planning. Frontiers of Health Services Management, 23(2), 3–15.

Profile of a Health Care Manager

According to Buchbinder and Thompson (2010), formal training in hospital administration did not exist until 1934 when Michael M. Davis, along with the University of Chicago, developed the first Health Administration program, combining both business and social education to meet the dynamic and unique needs of health care. In today’s economy of almost 10% unemployment nationwide, the health care field continues to grow, even in the face of uncertain regulation and remuneration (Fiscella, 2011; Sanburn, 2011; Scangos, 2009). However, as the economy continues to stagnate, health care providers still require to paid for their services. This is where the health care manager comes in.

A good health care manager is expected to make decisions that benefit both the organization and the client. Although health care is a business, one might say that it is expected to be the most ethical of all businesses as people’s lives are dependent upon its efficacy and continuity. As such, health care managers are expected, according to Buchbinder and Thompson (2010), to have a high ethical standard along with a requisite savvy business sense. Health care managers are also expected to have refined interpersonal skills, leadership, and integrity. Katz (as cited in Buchbinder & Thompson, 2010) defines the characteristics of an effective manager as possessing critical thinking and complex problem solving skills, expertise in their field, and the ability to effectively communicate with others.

Health care managers can work in a variety of settings and operate under many titles; however, these settings can be defined by two descriptors: direct care and nondirect care. Direct care settings, as described by Buchbinder and Thompson (2010), are those settings in which services are provided directly to the patient. Managers within direct care settings should be customer-focused with great interpersonal skills and dedication. These managers should also be excellent problem solvers, as direct consumers tend to require more expedient solutions than ubiquitous deadlines permit. A person may be better suited for this role if he or she enjoys dealing with the general public and solving complex problems with limited information. Nondirect care settings, on the other hand, can be described as health care support organizations as they might provide supplies, logistics, and expertise to those in direct care settings. Managers within nondirect care settings need to be more business savvy as they will typically interact with clients and associates on that level than, per se, a patient-provider level. Nondirect care managers must also be skilled in marketing and finance. Those with an affinity to these roles might possess more professional or technical skills, focusing more on business than personal relationships.

Both direct and nondirect care settings are important to the delivery of health care, today. Buchbinder and Thompson (2011) describe each as well-paying with opportunity, commensurate with education and experience, to advance within the field of health care management. Health care is both growing and changing, and it is a promising occupational arena.

References

Buchbinder, S. B. & Thompson, J. M. (2010). Career opportunities in health care management: Perspectives in the field. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Fiscella, K. (2011). Health care reform and equity: promise, pitfalls, and prescriptions. Annals of Family Medicine, 9(1), 78–84. doi:10.1370/afm.1213

Sanburn, J. (2011, August 18). Health care industry growth beginning to slow. Time Moneyland. Retrieved from http://moneyland.time.com/2011/08/18/health-care-industry-growth-beginning-to-slow/

Scangos, G. A. (2009). Proceeding in a receding economy. Nature Biotechnology, 27(5), 424-425. doi:10.1038/nbt0509-424

Motivation: A Career that I Enjoy

I am lucky to work in a career that I absolutely enjoy. As a paramedic in the emergency medical services (EMS), I am called upon to help those in my community in the worst of circumstances to help them when they feel helpless. There are drawbacks, however. Many people rely on EMS for problems that even they do not view as emergent, and others just plainly abuse the system. Still, I enjoy being the one called upon to help. My primary motivations are my sense of community, my ability to reduce suffering, and my ability to raise the standard of care within the system. Maslow (1943) includes some of the earliest accepted work on motivational theory, and more contemporary work is based on the acceptance, rejection or modification of his theories, so I will focus on Maslow to begin. My needs, according to Maslow, are not as important to motivation. Need fulfillment will not motivate me to perform; however, a lack of fulfillment may prevent me from performing. This is especially true for Maslow’s lower-order needs. Maslow discusses how emergency situations can “obscure the ‘higher’ motivations [and create] a lopsided view of human capacities and human nature” (p. 375), and while my career is focused on responding to emergencies, this may hold true for me. While Maslow’s theory is not wholly accepted motivational schema (Robbins & Judge, 2010), EMS managers, and other public safety managers, would do well to understand this exception to motivational theory.

Many EMS managers, it seems, subscribe to McGregor’s (1957/2000) theory X without understanding the ramifications or the competing theory Y. There is a deep-seated belief that the workforce is lazy and will do anything possible to undermine the operation. This results in micromanagement tactics that seem to promote an unwillingness to promote the goals of the employer. McGregor highlights this and cautions that it a result of poor management technique, not a cause that is easily rectified by the chosen technique.

Other theories, such as goal-setting, equity theory, and expectancy theory, as described in Robbins and Judge (2010), are all lacking in one particular constant: there is no constant in human behavior. There are a number of ways that a single motivational factor might influence a particular person on any particular day. For any theory to always be true in every situation, it would cease to be a theory and become a law. This being said, as managers, we need to measure the importance of certain tasks and focus our efforts on communicating this importance to the workforce. It is the manner of this communication that will tend to fail or succeed, based on both the needs of the manager and the needs of the employee at the moment the message is passed.

References

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-396. doi:10.1037/h0054346

McGregor, D. (2000). The Human Side of Enterprise (Reprinted from Adventure in thought and action: Proceedings of the fifth anniversary convocation of the School of Industrial Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, 1957, April 9. Cambridge, MA: MIT School of Industrial Management). Reflections, 2(1), 6-14. doi:10.1162/152417300569962

Robbins, S. P. & Judge, T. A. (2010). Motivation concepts. Essentials of organizational behavior (pp. 62-79). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Addressing Health Disparities

It is troubling to many people to see any person suffering in our society. It is even more troubling to see inequality extend to whole ethnic and racial groups within our society. We certainly do not want to be an unjust society, and we certainly want every member of our society to benefit from the technological gains made in the last century.

One of the more troublesome areas that many view as unjust is health and health care. It is unfortunate that some members of our society suffer from disparities in health. For instance, immunizations and vaccines for most of the common deadly pathogens are readily available, yet many people fail to immunize themselves or their family.

Immunization and vaccination programs have eradicated smallpox and polio and have all but eliminated the threat of measles in the United States (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS], 2000). With influenza and pneumonia causing 30,000 to 41,000 deaths in the U. S., annually, the importance of vaccinating against these diseases is quite evident. Obviously, lacking immunity to a deadly pathogen is a disparate condition of health status, and Hispanic and African American populations are vaccinated with less frequency than Whites. How are these issues being addressed?

On the international level, the United Nations (2009) is addressing health disparities by attempting to eradicate poverty on a global scale. Unfortunately, many of these global initiatives have created an environment rife with economic turmoil that we are just now starting to see and understand. Though the premise of helping people out of poverty is very noble, the reality seems to be that we can only offer means for people to help themselves. Otherwise, we risk thrusting whole populations into a world they know nothing about, setting them up for failure. Poverty is based on local economy, and I believe that these interrelated problems are best addressed on the local levels with assistance from states, nations, and global endeavors. The people must direct their own path for a successful transition. They must take responsibility for their own successes and failures.

The United States addresses these concerns on a federal level, offering guidance to states and municipalities in ways to address them. One of these methods is a report from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010 (DHHS, 2000) has two stated major goals: 1) to increase quality and years of healthy life, and 2) to eliminate major health disparities. There are also 467 objectives in 28 focus areas designed to further these two major goals. Immunization is one of these focus areas.

According to the CDC’s National Center for Disease Statistics (2010), the goal of achieving a 90% immunization rate for children 19-35 months of age is close to being reached. The combination diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP) vaccine (85%) and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (75%) are the only two recommended childhood vaccines that are not being administered at least 90% of the time. According to DHHS (2000), the goal for DTP vaccination was 80% in 2000. It appears that this goal has been reached and exceeded.

Conversely, older adults, age 65 and greater, are at an increased risk of contracting illnesses that could be prevented by vaccination. “In 1999 approximately 90 percent of all influenza and pneumonia-related deaths occurred in individuals aged 65 and older” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, 2007, para. 2). DHHS (2000) does not state a quantitative goal for vaccinating noninstitutionalized older adults, though it does mention a need to “increase the proportion of noninstitutionalized adults who are vaccinated annually against influenza and ever vaccinated against pneumococcal disease” (p. 42). In 2000, 46% of the population in the U. S. were vaccinated against pneumococcal disease, and 64% were vaccinated against influenza (DHHS, 2000). In 2009, pneumococcal disease vaccinations increased by 15%, whereas influenza vaccinations increased by only 3% (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, 2010).

Striving to eliminating health disparities is a noble endeavor; however, the mere fact of attaining this goal contributes to the increase of health care disparity. By increasing the health care delivery model for one at-risk population, we must accept negative gains in the delivery of health care for all other populations. This is an example of the law of conservation describing the divisional nature of finite resources: when an isolated system undergoes change, its change in entropy will be zero or greater than zero (Negi & Anand, 1985). This concept is better stated as it applies to the zero-sum game of our economics today. Kathleen Madigan (2010), in a Wall Street Journal blog post, stated, “More spending in one area has to be financed by less purchases elsewhere” (para. 5).

Two conclusions can be drawn from observing this phenomena in health care. First, if people are spending their health care dollars on other staples, such as food, clothing, and shelter, then we should see a decline in the health of individuals that are making these choices. Second, within health care, in order to increase a focus on one population, an equal negative effect will be seen in all other population groups.

In all aspects of health care delivery, care should be taken to ensure just and equitable delivery of care regardless of socioeconomic factors, race, gender, religion, or creed. All people should have access to the minimum required care in order to maintain a healthy and productive life. We can counsel and educate our patients and clients to best health practices, but we cannot, however, force people to choose health over other facets of their lives.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2010). Immunization. FastStats. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/immunize.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities. (2007). Eliminate disparities in adult & child immunization rates. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/omhd/AMH/factsheets/immunization.htm

Madigan, K. (2010, August 3). With wallets thin, consumers face zero-sum game. Real time economics: Economic insight and analysis from the Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2010/08/03/with-wallets-thin-consumers-face-zero-sum-game/

Negi, A. S. & Anand, S. C. (1985). The second law of thermodynamics. A textbook of physical chemistry (pp. 241-289). Retrieved from http://books.google.com/

United Nations. (2009). The millenium development goals report: 2009. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/MDG_Report_2009_ENG.pdf

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2000, November). Healthy People 2010: Understanding and improving health (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office.

Health Care Reform

In beginning this endeavor, I found it initially difficult to find anything related to health care legislation that I would be inclined to support or oppose in a letter to my Congressman. I tend to rely on the elections in order to convey my political positions. After studying some of the recent legislation, I found that the only premise that interested me was the adoption of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 and the related Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. Unfortunately, attempting to find credible dialogue on the internet regarding these laws is both impractical and near impossible. The special interest groups are leaning to their respective extremes. With commentary not proving trustworthy for factual insight, I relied on the Congressional Budget Office and the full text of the laws to cement my position. Using the aforementioned information in conjunction with Senator Lieberman’s contact information from the U. S. Senate website (http://www.senate.gov), I formulated a letter to him outlining my economic concerns (see Appendix).

I understand the grandeur of the idea of universal health care. I applaud the debates of how best to offer affordable or free health care to ever citizen of the United States. Unfortunately, as a nation, we are not fit in our financial means to proffer such an expensive entitlement. As Goodson (2010) reports, many of the initiatives outlined within the law are not guaranteed to be successful. This at an increased cost of $390 billion over the first 10 years (Elmendorf, 2010).

To ensure that my points were valid, I researched the approval ratings of these laws. According to WashingtonWatch.com (2010), approximately 80% of respondants do not favor the passing of these laws. More scientifically, however, a consistent range of 54 – 58% of Americans favor repeal of the laws, while 63% of senior citizens agree (Rasmussen Reports, 2010).

References

Elmendorf, D. W. (2010, March 20). Manager’s amendment to reconciliation proposal [Letter to the Honorable Nancy Pelosi]. U. S. Congress, Washington, D. C. Retrieved from the Congressional Budget Office website: http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/113xx/doc11379/ Manager%27sAmendmenttoReconciliationProposal.pdf

Goodson, J. D. (2010). Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Promise and peril for primary care. Annals of Internal Medicine. Advance online publication. Retrieved from http://www.annals.org/content/early/2010/04/15/0003-4819-152-11-201006010-00249.full

Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-152 (2010).

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-148 (2010).

Rasmussen Reports. (2010, May 17). Health care law: 56% Still Want to Repeal Health Care Law, Political Class Disagrees. Retrieved on May 22, 2010, from http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/healthcare/march_2010/health_care_law

WashingtonWatch.com. (2010). P.L. 111-148, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Retrieved on May, 22, 2010 from http://www.washingtonwatch.com/bills/show/111_PL_111-148.html

Appendix

Michael F. Schadone
[REDACTED]
Woodstock, CT 06282

The Honorable Joseph I. Lieberman
706 Hart Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

May 22, 2010

Re: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010

 Dear Senator:

 My name is Michael Schadone and I am a nationally registered critical care paramedic working in Northeast Connecticut. I am writing you today because I do not support the recent legislation referred to as The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. I urge you and your colleagues in Congress to repeal this law. I believe that our efforts aimed at improving the economy will, in itself, dramatically reduce the disparities in access to health care.

Under the auspices of a progressive government, our country has seen many times of woe. Bigger government and higher rates of spending have driven our economy into the ground. It was only the idea of smaller government and trust in the American entrepreneur that ever caused unemployment rates to drop to less than five percent. More people gainfully employed means more people with access to affordable health care. Is this not our goal? In Europe, economic systems are collapsing. Many of the countries with universal health care have tax rates approaching 70 percent (including ‘value-added tax’). It is commonly held that suppressing the spending power of the citizenry will surely lead to a collapse of the free market, the basis of our economy. I certainly do not want the United States of America to resemble Greece, Portugal, Spain, or Cuba. We are the Great Experiment, and so far, it is working. I fear, though, not for much longer.

I favor universal health care just as I favor universal education and other entitlements but not at the expense of our country. Improvements to the economy will put us in a position to gain strength and enable us to afford such a sweeping paradigm shift in health care. More importantly, a better economy will allow us to do it properly. I urge you to focus on the economy and repeal this dangerous law.

 Sincerely,

Michael F. Schadone

Patient Safety Considerations for EMS

 In the out-of-hospital emergency care setting, patient safety is paramount. Initially, victims of trauma or illness are already suffering in an uncontrolled environment. It is this same environment where first responders, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics must operate to stabilize and transport the victim to the hospital, a more controlled environment. Unfortunately, there is little research in the area of patient safety in this setting (Meisel, Hargarten, & Vernick, 2008; Paris & O’Conner, 2008).

Importance

Focusing on patient safety and developing processes to ensure optimal safety would allow the study of inherently dangerous, yet potentially beneficial therapies, such as rapid sequence intubation where the clinician uses a series of medications to rapidly sedate and paralyze a critical patient for ease of inserting a breathing tube. Focusing on safety, an EMS department in Maryland successfully instituted such a program (Sullivan, King, Rosenbaum, & Smith, 2010).

With more research in this area, the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) can improve the care they seek to deliver to their patients.

Challenges

There are many challenges facing EMS as they seek to deliver safe and effective care to their patients. Motor vehicle accidents (including air transportation accidents), dropped patients, medication and dosage errors, other inappropriate care, and assessment errors all contribute to the number of adverse events in the EMS out-of-hospital care setting (Meisel et al., 2008). Unfortunately, it has proved difficult to identify both the existence and the cause of each event (Meisel et al., 2008; Paris et al., 2008). Additionally, there are adverse events that are impossible to track, such as the iatrogenic exposure to a pathogen. It would be very difficult to distinguish how and when a patient was first exposed to the infecting pathogen without considering community-acquired infections and hospital-acquired infections, which are both equally difficult to ascertain (Taigman, 2007).

Strategies for improvement

As EMS seeks to increase the professionalism among its ranks, the stakeholders must acknowledge responsibility for providing evidence-based processes to ensure patient safety.

References

Meisel, Z. F., Hargarten, S., & Vernick, J. (2008, October). Addressing prehospital patient safety using the science of injury prevention and control.Prehospital Emergency Care, 12(4), 4-14.

Paris, P. M. & O’Connor, R. E. (2008, January). A national center for EMS provider and patient safety: helping EMS providers help us. Prehospital Emergency Care, 12(1), 92-94.

Sullivan, R. J., King, B. D., Rosenbaum, R. A., & Shiuh, T. (2010, January). RSI: the first two years. One agency’s experience implementing an RSI protocol. EMS Magazine, 39(1), 34-51.

Taigman, M. (2007, July). We don’t mean to hurt patients. EMS Magazine, 52(4), 36-42.

Reducing our Health Care Expenditures

With the recent signing into law of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010), more affectionately known as ‘Obama Care’, much of the health care discussion has turned from deciding what we should do to how we should do it. Many us acknowledge that the current state of our health care needs reformation; the only problem seems to be choosing the best approach. As a licensed out-of-hospital provider, I am in a unique position to observe patients entering our health care system, being treated by our health care system, and exiting (for good or bad) our health care system. I can see that our health care needs are not being met, and I can see both how patients approach their care and how practitioners approach their patients — inefficiently and ineffectively. We need to resolve these issues.

Canada is a fairly close approximation to the United States in locale, geography, economy, and political ideology (Doran, ca. 2000; “GNI per capita”, 2010). It might make sense for us to look towards Canada to see if they have adopted a plan that we could either emulate, or, in the very least, research for a sense of best practices. Kovner, Knickman, and Jonas (2008) describe Canada as having a national health insurance (NHI) system of health care, in that the system is provisioned by a mix of both public and private contributions. Two benefits of Canada’s health care system include a high life expectancy (77.4 for males at birth) and a low cost ($3,165 per capita, or 9.9% of GDP; Kovner et al., 2008, Table 6.2, p. 165). In comparison, Kovner et al. shows that the life expectancy for males in the United States is 74.8 under a system that costs $6,102 per capita (or, 15.3% of GDP). These numbers are significant because we need to understand what we can expect from our investments, and I feel that the average life expectancy is a great benchmark of a health care system as a whole. One worry that I would have, though, is if we were to adopt the same pharmaceutical cost controls, research and development in the industry may suffer, as well as any other technology burdened by cost-cutting measures. I have to assume that the free market would effectively drive these areas, however.

In order to adopt such sweeping changes of our health care system, both liberals and conservatives would have to negotiate their ideals. I am a fairly conservative citizen who believes in smaller government and spending constraints. If reducing our health care expenditures by realigning the modes and methods of health care delivery was realistic, I could be in favor of such a reform. Political agendas aside, Canada’s health care system is certainly one that we should further consider.

References

Doran, H. (ca. 2000). Politics and political parties in Canada. Internet sources for journalists and broadcasters. Retrieved on April 22, 2010, from http://www.synapse.net/radio/can-pol.htm

“GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$)”. (2010). Data catalog. The World Bank Group. Retrieved on April 22, 2010, from http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

Kovner, A. R., Knickman, J. R., & Jonas, S. (Eds.). (2008). Jonas & Kovner’s health care delivery in the United States (9th ed.). New York, NY: Springer.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, H.R. 3590, 111th Cong. (2010).

Improving Traffic Safety for Emergency Responders

The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is an occupational field wrought with opportunities for workers to become ill, injured, or succumb to death while performing the functions of their job (Maguire, Hunting, Smith, & Levick, 2002). In the mid-1980’s, Iglewicz, Rosenman, Iglewicz, O’Leary, and Hockmeier (1984) were among the first to perform research into the occupational health of EMS workers by uncovering unhealthy carbon monoxide levels in the work area. This appears to have been the impetus for further research into uncovering some of the causes and contributing factors of illness and injury incidents, as well as safer alternatives to current work practices.

One of the more recent efforts to protect EMS workers relates to traffic-related injuries and fatalities of EMS workers while responding to calls and working on the scenes of traffic accidents. As important it is for the EMS workers to be able to get to the scene of an emergency and work without threat of injury, the safety of the community is important to consider. Solomon (1990) realized the need to improve safety in this area and recommended changing the paint color of emergency apparatus to more visible lime-green. Emergency workers were continuing to fall victim to “secondary incidents” at roadway scenes (Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association, 1999). An analysis of EMS worker fatalities between 1992 and 1997 reveals an occupational fatality rate that continues to exceed that of the general population (Maguire, Hunting, Smith, & Levick, 2002).

Across the pond, in the United Kingdom, efforts were also underway to improve the visibility of police vehicles by considering various paint design schemes, including the Battenburg design: alternating blocks of contrasting colour (Harrison, 2004). Harrison concluded that the half-Battenburg design showed promise as it increased visibility and recognition of police cars in the United Kingdom, and the United States National Institute of Justice was considering research on the efficacy of the Battenburg design here in the United States to promote officer safety. EMS administrations are known for paying special attention to the bandwagon, that is they frequently make changes based on inconclusive and sporadic evidence. This is the case with recent ambulance designs.

Many ambulances in the New England, as well as other parts of the country, are being designed with the half-Battenburg markings applied to the sides of the vehicles in attempts to improve the safety of EMS workers. Unfortunately, we may find that these markings might have an unintended effect of confusing other drivers and causing more problems. A recent study found that Harrison (2004) was correct in that the Battenburg design assisted British drivers in quickly identifying British police vehicles, but the “effectiveness of the ‘Battenburg’ pattern in the UK appears primarily related to its association with police vehicles in that country” (Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security, 2009, p. 6) having little effect on the recognition potential of American drivers.

Perhaps with the evolving data, we can begin using an evidence-based approach at helping the EMS worker perform his or her job safely at traffic scenes.

References

Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association. (1999). Protecting Emergency Responders on the Highways: A White Paper. Emmitsburg, MD: United States Fire Administration.

Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security. (2009). Emergency vehicle visibility and conspicuity study [Catalog No. FEMA FA-323]. Emmittsburg, MD: United States Fire Administration.

Harrison, P. (2004). High-conspicuity livery for police vehicles [Publication No. 14/04]. Hertfordshire, U.K.: Home Office, Police Scientific Development Branch. Retrieved from http://scienceandresearch.homeoffice.gov.uk/hosdb/publications/road-policing-publications/14-04-High-Conspicuity-Li12835.pdf

Iglewicz, R., Rosenman, K.D., Iglewicz, B., O’Leary, K., & Hockmeier, R. (1984). Elevated levels of carbon monoxide in the patient compartment of ambulances. American Journal of Public Health, 74(5).

Maguire, B.J., Hunting, K.L., Smith, G.S., and Levick, N.R. (2002). Occupational fatalities in emergency medical services: A hidden crisis. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 40(6), 625-632. doi: 10.1067/mem.2002.128681

Solomon, S.S. (1990). Lime-yellow color as related to reduction of serious fire apparatus accidents: The case for visibility in emergency vehicle accident avoidance. Journal of the American Optometric Association, 61, 827-831.