Major changes are occurring in our healthcare system. Depending on your point of view, these changes can either bring fantastic opportunities or ultimate disaster to the EMS profession. This new column will review how public affairs, stakeholder relations and new innovation strategies need to become an essential component of the EMS profession for it to survive, and even thrive, in this new healthcare environment. We will help keep you informed not only on the legal, regulatory and community issues impacting our industry today, but more important, opportunities on the horizon to transform our industry to guarantee successful operations.
As part of this resource, we will make available an online repository of information, ideas for innovation and public relations tools you can use in your areas to enhance your community partnerships and business opportunities. As we kick off this new column, let’s take a closer look at the concept of “public affairs” and how it can shape the future of EMS.
Traditionally EMS leaders have assumed that if they do a good job, make effective use of scarce resources and stay off the front page of the local newspaper, all is well. Nothing could be further from the truth. Myriad forces are at work that can undermine your best efforts to provide quality service to a large and vulnerable segment of our society.
Defining Public Affairs
In general, public affairs deals with external stakeholder relations. Although it may be debated in some circles, most will agree that EMS is essentially a healthcare profession. In fact, we are the largest provider of health services in the nation. Many of our stakeholders are healthcare-related. In addition to the healthcare function, we also operate in a key public safety role, often bringing a totally different set of stakeholders.
• Patient family members
• Accountable care organizations
• Skilled nursing facilities
• Long-term acute care centers
• Home health agencies
• Physicians (including medical control)
• Payers (Medicare, Medicaid, commercial)
• Trade associations
Public safety stakeholders:
• First responders
• City government
• County government
• State government
• Federal government
• Emergency management
• Local business associations
An effective public affairs strategy engages stakeholders so we can explain what EMS is and our role in various communities, provide statistical and factual information on operations, and lobby on issues that could impact our ability to operate successfully. The work combines government relations, media communications, dissemination of corporate and social responsibility information, and strategic communications.
Platforms like text messaging, Facebook and Twitter present both a unique challenge and an opportunity for public affairs. Never before have people been able to share information on such a global scale. We will devote an entire column to this in the near future.
Three of the most significant goals of public affairs are to influence public policy, build and maintain a strong brand and reputation, and find a common ground with stakeholders. It is our desire with this column to help the EMS profession identify ways to focus on these goals locally and nationally.
Influence Public Policy
A plethora of national associations represent EMS interests: the National Association of EMTs (NAEMT), American Ambulance Association (AAA), Advocates for EMS (AEMS), International Association of EMS Chiefs (IAEMSC), National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP), National Association of EMS Educators (NAEMSE), National Association of State EMS Officials (NASMSO), International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), National Emergency Medical Services Management Association (NEMSMA), among others.