Dr. Ben Ma, MDUnderstanding the patient’s status on arrival can have a major impact on their outcome. EMS providers experience, firsthand, the changes that can occur in the short amount of time from the scene to the hospital, and hospital providers rely on a complete set of information. Accurate details from EMS ensure that patients receive the most appropriate hospital care, as quickly as possible.

Ben Ma, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine, at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston and assistant medical director of the emergency department at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, credits EMS providers with being the critical link between patients and the hospital team, especially when it comes to vital signs. “There is no other set of information that can make as drastic of a difference in the patient’s care,” he says.

Vital Signs Tell the Story

One of the fastest ways to determine the most appropriate care is to fully understand the starting point. Vital signs provide a map to the best course of treatment and knowing the numbers can save time and prevent pursuing options that should be ruled out. “Working from the vital signs makes a huge difference in how we approach the patient, and those numbers hold more keys to the diagnosis than many people realize,” says Dr. Ma.

The assessment conducted when the patient first arrives at the hospital doesn’t always include each piece of the puzzle that is important to emergency physicians. “We need to know what has changed from the scene to the hospital,” Dr. Ma says. If a patient’s blood pressure is abnormal when EMS providers make the initial assessment, but the level returns to normal by the time they arrive at the hospital, that change is important information. “Studies have correlated an abnormal vital sign in the prehospital setting with more negative long-term outcomes, even if things look better when they get to us,” says Dr. Ma.

Get the Basics

An accurate patient-care report gives the patient a better chance of a successful outcome. Dr. Ma says knowing the basics of heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, SpO2 and body temperature (along with blood glucose if stroke is suspected) helps his team provide more appropriate care.

Challenges in the Field

Hospital providers know the challenges EMS providers face and understand that providing complete information isn’t always possible, especially when dealing with situations like severe car crashes or non-compliant patients.

When a situation prevents collecting a full, accurate set of vitals, Dr. Ma advises EMS providers to communicate this upon arrival at the hospital. “When this happens, we understand,” he says. “Just be sure to communicate with the emergency department crew that is taking over care of the patient. This transparency is very important.”

A Partnership with Memorial Hermann

At Memorial Hermann, we understand the complexity of the types of injuries and patients you treat. Our goal is to partner with you to provide the best possible patient care with a comprehensive range of specialties and expertise, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For the most critically injured, we are ready to treat patients directly from the scene at our Level I Trauma Center that includes a 24/7 orthopedic trauma team, Scene-to-OR pathway and a Hybrid OR.

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