Prime Time Living - Page 6 - Your emergency care is covered

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Your emergency care is covered
Specialty referral centers lead to better health outcomes

By Margit B. Weisgal, Contributing Writer

When you experience the symptoms of a stroke, don’t wait, don’t think, call 9-1-1. For this and any other medical emergency, Maryland has a structure that extends statewide, its origins dating back almost 50 years ago. Developed in the mid-1960s, it was part of national wave to formalize emergency medical services (EMS).

We often take for granted the arrival of an ambulance to a 9-1-1 call, but this wasn’t always the case. Picture, if you will, just after the Civil War, the first civilian ambulance was put into service. Around that time, transportation of those ill or injured was provided by, among others, funeral home hearses, just like the one used for Abraham Lincoln’s funeral. It took many years before fire departments, rescue squads and private ambulances took over the responsibility.

The leaps in evolving emergency services usually took place during or after a war. For instance, with the invention of aircraft, although primitive, the first recorded transport of wounded was in 1917. World War II brought us medevac by airplanes and a few instances of helicopter use. Then, during the Korean War (1950-1953), dedicated helicopters flew wounded and injured. Remember the opening scene of the television show M*A*S*H? The helicopter pictured was pretty accurate.

Now, 70 years later, pre-hospital care, the formal name for EMS, has come into its own. Physicians study and become board-certified in emergency medicine, and training of EMTs and Paramedics is standardized.

In Maryland, under the aegis of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems ( www.miemss.org ) – MIEMSS – everything is coordinated, including EMS educational programs and designation of trauma and specialty centers, so EMTs (emergency medical technicians) and paramedics are specially trained to identify signs of a stroke and to take you to the closest appropriate primary stroke center. They also call ahead, pre-notifying the venue so that you are Specialty referral centers lead to better health outcomes taken directly to be assessed.

“Our goal is to get the right patient to the right destination in the right amount time. That’s one reason why we designate specialty referral centers – to ensure that our patients are delivered to the highest quality care for their emergent condition,” Dr. Timothy Chizmar, Maryland State EMS Medical Director of MIEMMS, explains.

He then adds, “We have found that hospitals that care for a critical mass of cases of a specific injury or illness tend to excel in treating these patients and are better equipped to provide high-quality and timely responses.” This designation is in addition to the accreditation by the Joint Commission (JC, www.jointcommission.org ), an independent, not-for-profit organization that sets performance standards.

MEIMSS-designated specialty referral centers exist for, among others, Eye Trauma, Cardiac Intervention, Burns, Pediatric Trauma, and Stroke. For stroke, there are three types of accreditation:

Emergency, continued on page 24