If you ask an EMS provider what they think about their job, most will tell you how much they love this profession.
They are also proud to take care of their communities on a daily basis. Ask the community what they think about EMS and the response will likely vary by community and the individuals within that community.
This variability occurs because EMS has not effectively told its story. There is not a local, regional, state or national strategy to tell the EMS story. While the argument has been made that EMS cannot agree on the content of its chronicle, it is time to put the “why we can’t” attitude aside and make it happen. What do you want your EMS tale to say about your system? There are many attributes to choose from. Below are a few, coupled with examples of how other organizations highlight their strong qualities by effectively telling their story.
Customer Service: EMS is there for you in your time of need, delivered with compassion and exceeding customer expectations. Customer service is the hallmark of many great companies: Disney and the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain focus on customer service and it shows. It is how they differentiate themselves from others.
Excellence: EMS delivers top-quality care and strives to be the best. The Marine Corps sets the bar. The few, the proud, the Marines…
Safety/Security: EMS is your safety net and will be there when you need it. Public safety partners in fire and law enforcement do this very well, providing a sense of safety and security to communities (e.g., hometown heroes). The airline industry also clearly focuses on passenger safety.
Cost: Having a strong, viable EMS system in your community provides great value and a positive return on the community’s investment. From an economic perspective, Walmart wins this battle by economy of scale and offering the lowest price on the products it sells. Regionalization of EMS could help realize costs savings based on the same principles.
Reliability: EMS must have a “timely” response for each and every call and deliver a consistent product (emergency care) every time. McDonald’s is extremely skilled in delivering a consistent product regardless of location. The company has refined its process to deliver the same product with an incredible percentage of reliability.
Steps to Story Success
Start with your own local story. Pick your areas of strength or where you are headed from your strategic plan. This may be from the list above or other characteristics of your system. Study how other companies tell their story and adopt their methods.
Once the tale is written, you must share it. To tell the EMS story, providers must advocate. It is not necessary to be a D.C. lobbyist to advocate. We need to tell the story (advocate) to anyone and everyone who will listen at all levels. Every 9-1-1 call is an opportunity for advocacy. All parties involved in that 9-1-1 call—patient, bystanders, law enforcement, fire, emergency departments, etc.—will form an opinion of EMS based on those experiences. Make every opportunity count.
EMS must also do a better job of marketing itself. The general public has little idea how busy you are or what you can actually do on an emergency scene. Telling the EMS story means developing a marketing plan to educate the public and demonstrate the economic and non-economic value EMS brings to the community.
To market effectively, EMS needs good data. Law enforcement collects a tremendous amount of data and uses it to show its value in the way police-officer-to-civilian ratio impacts crime rates. This contributes to the perception of safety within a community. EMS is behind the curve on data collection and analysis. Develop a data plan you can use to collect, track and trend data to further show your value.