Effect of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) on the United States Emergency Medical Services System: A Preliminary Report

PECARN

The effects of COVID-19 are far-reaching, will likely be long-lasting and certainly have implications to pediatric emergency care. In a recent CHaMP publication in partnership with the NEMSIS Technical Assistance Center, researchers found that across the United States there was a 26% reduction in 9-1-1 responses over the 6 weeks starting on March 2.  This reduced call volume has continued through May. Even more alarming the rate of EMS attended deaths and cardiac arrests has doubled over this same period while the rate of injury related responses declined.  The public health implications of these findings are that reduced call volumes with increased acuity means that people with urgent conditions are likely not getting the emergency care they need resulting in increased morbidity and mortality not directly related to exposure to the Corona virus.  This may mean that future consideration needs to be given for how we message the risks associated with seeking medical care and the importance of getting timely care for emergent conditions that may not be related to the pandemic.   

The EMS system implications are likely to be far reaching.  The financial strain on EMS agencies will have long term ramifications for maintaining this important safety net for our communities, especially those agencies whose revenue is based solely on patient transports. In general, the costs during this time period were likely flat due to system readiness demands while the revenues were significantly reduced.  Further, higher volumes of high-acuity patients especially those with time sensitive conditions that could have improved outcomes if the 9-1-1 system was accessed sooner could increase stress for EMS providers which can affect their health and career longevity. Click here to access the full article.

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