California Funds Effort Connecting EMS To Hospitals Via HIE

While health data sharing has reached most participants in the healthcare system, it’s not often that you see EMS workers have access to patient medical records. Moreover, rather than entering up-to-the-moment data on patients being transported into an EHR, most of the time EMTs end up calling in updates on patients and supplying status information verbally to emergency department personnel.

This has never seemed like a particularly good situation to me, and apparently, they’re doing something about it in California. Specifically, the state’s Emergency Medical Services Authority has agreed to issue a $4.9 million grant to an HIE to connect EMS units to an HIE network.

The EMSA has awarded the grant to Manifest MedEx, whose 400 healthcare organizations members include Scripps Health, AHMC Healthcare and Health Net. The HIE provides real-time notifications of hospital admissions, discharges and transfer activity to participants, along with making seven years of searchable medical record history available.

With the help of the grant, Manifest MedEx will begin by connecting six local EMS agencies, 13 EMS providers and 16 hospitals, addressing a region which embraces 7.6 million Californians in eight counties. The initial effort will last for two years, with backers hoping that the new capabilities can be rolled out in other California communities in the future.

To sweeten the deal, the HIE is leveraging other funds available through the $50 million California Medi-Cal HIE Onboarding Program. Manifest MedEx is offering $60,000 to qualified hospitals who choose it as their HIE partner. (If $60,000 is just an incentive, these connections must be pretty expensive, but that’s what grants are for I suppose.)

As I noted above, part of why I find this news interesting is that I so seldom hear about initiatives connecting EMS with other healthcare data sources to any type of back-and-forth flow.

In fact, the most recent story I could find covering a similar initiative — on our site at least — dates back to early 2013. I wrote an article for this site when the Rochester Regional RHIO partnered with area EMS agencies to support hospital/EMS data sharing.

At the time, the RHIO had just put technology in place allowing EMS workers to securely share data with emergency departments or primary care doctors. Using this system, EMS workers created an “electronic pre-hospital care document” which could be uploaded to the patient’s medical record. As far as I can still such capabilities are still available.

What’s probably more significant is that since I posted the long-ago article, ONC has gotten involved in this area. In fact, in 2017 the agency issued a report encouraging providers to link EMS into their health data sharing plans. In fact, in the report, ONC published a data sharing model specifically designed to offer EMS access to search, alert, file and reconcile capabilities within an HIE network.

I’m not sure why hospitals haven’t come out heavily in support of adding EMS data to the mix. Perhaps the cost is a discouraging factor, or maybe integrating EMS just doesn’t seem like a must-have at the moment. Even so, I have to say that I’m a bit surprised we haven’t seen more action on this front. All things being equal, this seems like a no-brainer to me. Who wants patients to be any harder to treat than necessary when they enter the ED?

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.