Should Payment Policy Be Changed to Allow a Wider Range of EMS Transport Options?

Published in: Annals of Emergency Medicine, v. 63, no. 5, May 2014, p. 615-626. e5

by Kristy Gonzalez Morganti, Abby Alpert, Gregg S. Margolis, Jeffrey Wasserman, Arthur L. Kellermann

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The Institute of Medicine and other national organizations have asserted that current payment policies strongly discourage emergency medical services (EMS) providers from transporting selected patients who call 911 to non-ED settings (eg, primary care clinics, mental health centers, dialysis centers) or from treating patients on scene. The limited literature available is consistent with the view that current payment policies incentivize transport of all 911 callers to a hospital ED, even those who might be better managed elsewhere. However, the potential benefits and risks of altering existing policy have not been adequately explored. There are theoretical benefits to encouraging EMS personnel to transport selected patients to alternate settings or even to provide definitive treatment on scene; however, existing evidence is insufficient to confirm the feasibility or safety of such a policy. In light of growing concerns about the high cost of emergency care and heavy use of EDs, assessing EMS transport options should be a high-priority topic for outcomes research.

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