Clinton, Miss. -- In a position statement, the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) states that medical direction is an essential component of an effective EMS system in order to ensure that patient care is administered with appropriate clinical oversight using medically accepted standards. All EMS systems, regardless of their delivery model, should operate with medical direction and oversight from an EMS physician.
Since the passage of the first laws and regulations in the United States governing the provision of emergency medical services, physician medical direction has been and remains a fundamental component of effective EMS systems. Medical directors oversee the clinical practice of the EMS system and the development of sound, evidence-based clinical practice guidelines, assure that new medical technology is safely implemented, and gather input on patient care by EMS practitioners. They also develop and oversee objective performance improvement processes, maintain accountability and standards for the EMS profession, serve as a liaison between the EMS system and the medical community, and identify initial and continuing education opportunities as well as research opportunities for EMS practitioners.
In summary, medical directors are invaluable assets to effective EMS systems and have contributed significantly to the elevation of the practice of prehospital medicine. Within a wellfunctioning EMS system, the physician medical director and the EMS practitioners maintain a strong, cohesive relationship based on mutual respect and understanding of the critical role that each plays in the successful delivery of the highest quality prehospital patient care.
"This position promotes the idea of a medical director's value to an EMS system and to the profession. Active, invested, specialized medical directors help EMS practitioners and systems realize their full potential," says Paul Hinchey, MD, NAEMT Medical Director. "EMS has come so far and is only just now starting to be recognized, as it should, as an independent practice of medicine unique to the out-of-hospital environment. This change in perception has taken decades to build and is the result of the hard work of veteran practitioners, organizations like NAEMT and the dedication of medical directors around the country."
NAEMT is the nation's only professional association representing all EMS practitioners, including paramedics, emergency medical technicians, first responders and other professionals working in prehospital emergency medicine. NAEMT members work in all sectors of EMS, including government service agencies, fire departments, hospital-based ambulance services, private companies, industrial and special operations settings, and in the military.