The most exciting part of my role on the Operations Analytics team at Intermedix is the opportunity to work with EMS organizations worldwide. Our partnerships with agencies from Australia to the Netherlands, and from Canada to Qatar, allow us to understand the challenges facing EMS organizations and become an integral part of helping them understand, evaluate and solve those challenges. The issues and opportunities are complex; the ability to help organizations understand their current operations and model their future state with substantial confidence has been at the very core of what we have always strived to achieve within the Operations Analytics team.
We are at a unique point in the evolution of EMS across the globe. The pressure for EMS to become a more integral part of the healthcare continuum is a persistent theme. What this means and how it will be achieved differs from country to country, state to state, or agency to agency, but the core issue is amazingly consistent. While the challenges are substantial, the availability of advanced analytics capability is providing agencies with an unprecedented ability to actually evaluate and model potential solutions to these system structure and operations issues. For many agencies, this will require new or enhanced investment in analytical solutions that offer a full range of geospatial, optimization and simulation capabilities. These will each be critical in order to successfully answer the myriad ‘what if’ questions that will inevitably arise in the short and long term.
How do agencies ensure their investment is suitably effective and efficient? A number of strategies can assist in evaluating how your agency can embark on a system-level planning initiative:
- Find a partner that understands EMS operations. Ensure they have experience with complex system evaluation and modeling as their team members will likely become part of your organizations analytical capability, either formally or informally. Ask specific questions about experience and capability; don’t be afraid to ask for specific references about those who actually do the planning work for their current customers.
- Use the best available technologies to do analysis and modeling. The selected analytical tools should support robust geospatial capability and employ mathematical optimization tools. Furthermore, they should unquestionably use discrete event simulation (DES). The last point is critical; there is simply no more effective way to model a complex temporal system (like EMS) than with a DES-based model. While optimization technologies have a role, a high-accuracy modeling capability depends upon simulation. These technologies are more available than ever and being tailored to agencies of different sizes, complexity and price sensitivity. However, you will want to invest in the best available solution you can afford.
- Explore a services-based approach. We have seen an increasing number of agencies request to use our team members onsite as part of their analytics team. This offers some very interesting synergies and presents organizations with a method to enhance capacity without having to increase personnel. It ensures team members are always up to date with the most recent solution enhancements.
- Commit to being part of the ‘planning culture.’ Use your selected tools and team members to evaluate all operational changes, even the ‘simple’ ones. This builds confidence in the team and the technology and creates an open and transparent planning process. Our experience clearly shows that the more an agency uses a planning solution(s), the more uses they find for it. From evaluating a single deployment station location’s impact on system performance to evaluating the inclusion of new resource types into an existing system, the ability to model the change and make decisions based on the evidence produced is remarkably powerful.
- Share your success. The value of an evidence-based approach to decision making is degraded if you don’t share the evidence. Our customers have shared numerous examples that demonstrate the power of evidence-based planning in securing community investment in EMS. The ability to make a compelling argument in a competitive resource environment is critical. Further, the ability to quickly and effectively answer questions posed by appointed and elected officials results in more success for these agencies. Even more interesting is that this approach builds upon itself year upon year, as your elected and appointed officials become confident that your analysis and recommendations are sound and your evidence powerful.
The future of analytics within EMS continues to evolve, offering the promise of even better understanding and more effective agency management. We are exploring unique applications of machine learning and synthetic population technologies; investigating the ability to integrate operational, financial and clinical data to provide more comprehensive modeling capability; and finding new methods to simplify the implementation of advanced tools, making them more accessible across the full spectrum of EMS agencies. Ultimately, we do all these things because we want you to know as much as you can about the future so that you and your organization can evolve and change with confidence.