Why Upscaling EMS Organizations Need Cloud-Based Training Tools

As providers of on-scene medical intervention, emergency medical professionals such as EMTs, EMS, and paramedics walk a unique and challenging line between the dangers of first response and the rigors of modern healthcare. It is hard to understand the many demands on this field without donning the uniform: a single 12-hour shift may test an ambulance team’s patience, memorization, courage, and attention to detail.  Practitioners must continually develop these talents and traits to perform at the top of their field.

Despite this, emergency medical roles remain one of the most sought-after jobs on the market today. With relatively low entry-level certification requirements and a rapidly increasing number of available jobs (the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 15 percent growth by 2024, and a total of over 37,000 new positions) the role offers growth potential, job security, and the social prestige that comes with saving lives—an intriguing combination for anyone who can meet the requirements.

Growth this rapid does not come without growing pains, however. Rapid upscaling, a potential talent shortage, and hugely disproportionate turnover rate in certain areas of the country have contributed to a climate where some private and public agencies may struggle to get the personnel they need. In other agencies, the apparent insatiable demand for fresh EMTs may also threaten to unbalance the desired mix of rookie and veteran personnel, leaving management with little in the way of floor leadership, and additional responsibilities for training, compliance, and documentation.

For agencies failing to keep personnel in ambulances or grappling with a sudden influx of new employees, a renewed focus on tools that make efficient training possible can be a substantial stabilizing force. Moreover, the proper tools can do wonders for state- and agency-mandated compliance issues, reducing administrative confusion and saving the organization from unnecessary expense, effort, and legal liability. In an industry where unexpected growth and massive onboarding can feel like a dizzying one-two punch, these benefits can lend efficiency and create order when both seem like they are in short supply. Organizations shoehorning a ballooning roster within dated or inadequate training practices may see particular benefit in this regard.Emergency roles remain one of the most sought-after jobs in the market with a bright forecast into 2024 anticipating 37,000 new positions.CLICK TO TWEET

Growing EMS industry juggles new employees, continuing education, and liability

In many cases, a new employee’s initial education requirements are not a major concern for the employing agency. First-time verification is easy, often requiring little more than a search on a state-provided web portal, and employees themselves are responsible for providing proof of education, transcripts, and other data the state many need to render a decision on licensure. Most modern agencies will also employ third-party verification vendors or self-developed credentialing procedures to decrease liability and confirm with 100% certainty the person they have hired is qualified for the job.

Time, however, can complicate matters, particularly for an agency already struggling to adapt its practices to a larger-than-usual roster. While the specific rules vary from state to state, most regions require emergency medical personnel to undergo a set number of continuing education hours (typically around 40 hours) over a set number of years (usually two) to maintain their license, with some states imposing different standards on different practitioner categories. For example, California mandates 24 hours of continuing education (CE) for EMTs, 36 for advanced EMTs, and 48 for paramedics.

These points are important to consider due to the legal liability of negligent retention and hiring. Municipalities and organizations can be held financially responsible for failure to confirm initial and ongoing licensure, an easy oversight that can cost towns, health systems, and other entities significant amounts of money. In Youngstown, Ohio, for instance, negligent hiring is a focal point of an ongoing $150 million lawsuit against an EMS company and its employees, the latter of whom left a scene when the caller’s murderer answered the door told them no one inside the house dialed emergency services.This sudden influx of new employees will require focus on tools that make efficient training possible to stabilize the work force.CLICK TO TWEET

Now consider an EMS agency that engaged in a rather large hiring glut after a sustained uptick in billable call activity a few years prior. The company’s training solution, while perfectly adequate for a smaller company, begins to show its limitations as the roster grows and newcomers draw closer to two-year recertification. A lack of interplay between systems—databases holding results from local training sessions and the paper-based system used to confirm ongoing license qualification—effectively means another step towards overwork for a beleaguered credentialing employee. If this intense workload causes an organization to inaccurately confirm that one of the new employees meets the necessary certification requirements, and that new employee makes a fundamental error that costs a patient’s life, then the patient’s family might file a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the organization for negligence or wrongful death.

In this example, which is an amalgamation of real-world circumstances like the Youngstown lawsuit, an upgraded training management system with automation features might be the difference between a bad verdict and business as usual. Emergent first response trends like cross-training may further add to the risk of liability via licensure mistakes. When employees of multiple agencies have records that are only partially visible to each responsible supervisor—firefighting stakeholders can see the firefighting HR system, EMS managers can see the EMS system, etc.—it can be hard to confirm the breadth of training each has received.In Youngstown, Ohio, negligent hiring is a focal point of an ongoing $150 million lawsuit against an EMS company and its employees.CLICK TO TWEET

Cloud-based training systems tackle growing pains from multiple angles

Legal liability provides a compelling example because of the extreme costs it can inflict, but it is far from the only consequence EMS providers face when they employ training systems that no longer suit their size or operational needs. Indeed, the “chaotic workplace processes” mentioned above can and should be considered a negative outcome unto themselves. Employees hampered by a system that no longer supports the workload may be more stressed and less efficient, financial impacts notwithstanding.

Following this thought, it makes sense that organizations grappling with this issue would replace manual processes or outdated computer systems with a newer cloud-based training management system. While heavy investments in cloud technology from the healthcare and first response industries already suggest adoption would be a good move for EMS agencies, the industry’s explosive growth—current and projected—is, ultimately, what makes the relationship so appealing. Simply put, the technology is more adaptable and scalable than older training management methods, giving emergency medical services the flexibility they need to flourish today and in the future.Newer, cloud-based, centralized training management systems track the growing education and ongoing certification requirements across locations.CLICK TO TWEET

Centralization and integration are arguably the two biggest benefits cloud tech has to offer organizations with growth-related concerns. Instead of bouncing between systems or using tools in unintended ways to meet all the agency’s requirements—using certain attribute fields for purposes besides their labeled use, for example—cloud-based platforms tend to come designed with multiple sources of input in mind. In Florida, where regulations require EMS personnel to have two hours of pediatric emergency training among their 30 hours of continuing education, for instance, this could mean the difference between viewing compliance in a single spot and cross-checking multiple systems. Without the right infrastructure in place, that process could easily grow unwieldy as hiring practices continue to expand.

On the topic of expansion, cloud-based systems are also a considerable help for response agencies employing field offices, a common organizational structure in the EMS world. By removing the need to store files locally, supervisors and other management- and compliance-focused personnel gain freedom in where and how they carry out their roles. Training records, performance documents, scheduling information, and other documents become available at a glance from any authorized device, which in turn removes logistical overhead from critical tasks.Training records, performance documents, scheduling information, and other documents become available at a glance from any authorized device.CLICK TO TWEET

While automation is often discussed in terms of near-future benefits—think self-driving ambulances and automated diagnosis tools—its current-day use cases carry several benefits for rapidly growing EMS organizations. The same qualifications that would need manual cross-referencing in a paper or older digital system are automatically checked and reported to relevant personnel, lessening the need for double-checking, and shielding the organization from potential liability for negligence. As with other benefits, this functionality takes a problem that would grow with the roster and turns it into a task that requires the same minimal level of effort regardless of staffing numbers.

Conclusion: Cloud is the technology for a growing EMS industry

To be sure, the EMS world’s rapid growth and sunny outlook are hardly a bad thing. Organizations earn more revenue, while ground-level personnel get a sense of job security and desirability that professionals in other fields may never experience. Furthermore, there is little need to suffer a problem that can be overcome with the right selection of tools. In this instance, the high-level issue most organizations face—namely, the growing complexity of ensuring a large roster complies with initial-education and ongoing certification requirements— is exactly the problem that cloud-based training management software minimizes. For this reason alone, it is fair to predict a growing number of agencies beset by process-based inefficiency will embrace the technology. As the EMS boom rolls into the future, other response agencies would be wise to reconsider the factors that might keep them from riding the wave.

Posted on Oct 18, 2018