On the second day of the virtual ImageTrend Connect Conference, speakers Ben Hastings, director of product management at ImageTrend, and Justin Kelly, answer the question “What is meaningful data?” in their session, “Setting Up Your System for Good Reporting.”
In an age where data is driving operations in many industries more than ever, it’s essential that your EMS agency collect data strategically, said Hastings. The more obvious reasons for data collection include things like mandated reporting to your state’s EMS office, ensuring protection in legal matters, and determining operational budgets, but it’s also important that you have the numbers to justify jobs and job enhancement. Research can help drive the expansion of the EMS scope of practice, like adding more procedures or medications that can be administered. It identifies your community’s and agency’s needs so you can prepare for them as well as understand new trends that help your crews adjust how they deliver patient care.
“We want to account for all of these standards when we’re documenting,” said Hastings. “It’s not sufficient to say, ‘I’ve collected enough info for certain stakeholders.’ This data is often your only insight into things you are going to care about six months down the road.”
Don’t settle with fulfilling minimum reporting standards—what do you want your stakeholders to know? When considering what information you want to capture data on, ask yourself, What’s the purpose? Often these statistics are used to help inform various stakeholders of their support based on the needs or successes of an EMS agency. Leverage that data to garner the support you need.
NEMSIS.org (National EMS Information System, run by the NHTSA’s Office of EMS) is a resource that is “immensely beneficial for EMS administrators dealing with data,” says Hastings. He recommended focusing on a few key areas of their website. On the home page, the State & Territory Version 3 Transition Information map offers the contact information for your state data manager as well as standard implementation tools, including a state data set. This provides procedures, medications and protocols permitted by the state along with a list of values for each; it also covers state EMS agencies, facilities, certification/licensure levels, and collected data elements.
Under the Technical Resources tab, you’ll find the NEMSIS Data Dictionary, or as Hastings calls it, “the bible of EMS data.” Check out Version 3.4.0 (3.5.0 is listed but not yet available in all states). Hastings highly recommended bookmarking this tab to reference as it provides dataset groupings and dataset sections that help guide your data collecting and reporting (e.g. specifies in which instances reporting is required versus recommended, which situations warrant answers to questions instead of “N/A,” and whether the data is from the state or national level). These groupings can “help you drive what fields you want to capture,” said Hastings, and be “strategic when we create ways to collect this data.”
The next topic Hastings and Kelly addressed was how to collect more data. Within ImageTrend, the option to create supplemental questions (SQs) allows an EMS agency to create defined fields that capture that information. Choosing the multi-select option allows a provider to ask more questions and, you guessed it, get more information. “Think strategically when thinking about data to collect. It’s so important to think ahead about what you might need or want,” so choose those values carefully. Worksheets are a similar avenue to take, the main difference being questions are interconnected and grouped together by topic, so it just depends on your strategy and approach to getting the questions you want answered.
Hastings stresses this is not simply about entering data but customizing your interface to get helpful data out of the system as well. This can be based on what you want to share with your stakeholders to benefit your EMS agency.