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EMS Data Collection

Prehospital EMS Data Collection in Alaska:
A Plan for Improvement

The Need for Statewide Data Collection

The reasons for statewide data collection are many and compelling. It will give us an opportunity to

  • advocate more effectively for funding;
  • modify training programs to meet the needs of the EMS system;
  • identify and anticipate trends in patient care so the emergency medical services system can grow in a resource efficient manner;
  • allow research and introspection that will improve emergency patient care and focus injury prevention activities;
  • facilitate comparison of data with other systems.

All of these benefits exist at the local, regional and state levels. In addition, most of the newer software has very well developed billing capabilities which can significantly enhance the revenue collection necessary to sustain many services.

So, how do we move forward towards a statewide system of electronic EMS data collection? First, we accept that EMS agencies throughout Alaska have different needs, resources and sophistication related to record keeping and computerization. We need to find ways that we can collect data in a minimally intrusive manner while providing reports which make services want to participate in the program.

Activities which will be undertaken by the Section of Rural and Community Health Systems include:

  • Enhancing the model State EMS Prehospital Run Report Form
  • Developing and/or adopting a standardized record format for accepting electronic data (based on the NHTSA Data Set);
  • Making the input data format available to EMS agencies and software vendors;
  • Developing computer database capabilities to accept electronic data from patient care reports sent by participating services via modem (dialup and internet);
  • Finding ways to help fund some start up costs for electronic record keeping.
  • Develop the capability to provide services involved in the statewide data collection program with timely and meaningful reports.

One limitation of this proposed system for collecting electronic data (and there are probably others) is that it does not allow emergency medical services with paper based computer records to contribute patient care data on each run. We will still send these services the EMS ambulance service survey. However, it is unlikely that we will ever have the staff necessary to manually enter these records directly.

There are several models of data collection which can meet local, regional and state needs for data. They include:

  • Data entry over the internet to a central server for low volume services;
  • Entry of paper based information into a computer for uploading to the State EMS System Database; and
  • Entry of data into a pen based system for direct uploading to the State EMS System Database.

Each method of data entry needs to be accommodated in a statewide system and must be able to track a patient through multiple transporting agencies and, perhaps, across regional and state boundaries. The plan for developing the system is outlined below.

The Partners:

We hope to benefit from the active participation of many agencies an individuals in the development and implementation of this project, including:

  • Local EMS agencies
  • Regional EMS Offices
  • Alaska Fire Service Training
  • EMS Medical Directors
  • Alaska Fire Chief's Association


The State EMS Program's budget is insufficient to fund activities other than staff time devoted to developing a statewide EMS data collection system. To fund the hardware, software and contracts necessary to develop this system, staff of the Section of Rual and Community Health Systems must seek additional funding through grants.

The State EMS Program gratefully acknowledges the funding received from the Alaska Highway Planning Agency (within the Alaska Department of Public Safety) and the National Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMSC) Program. The funding recieved from these two organizations allow for some of the essential data planning activities to occur expressed below.

The Plan:

Phase I: Development of Central System Resources

The first phase of the plan includes development of system resources within the Section of Emergency Programs and includes the following tasks:

  • Developing and publishing an input data set format which contains the essential NHTSA data elements and can be used by software vendors as a template for adding export functions to software for use in Alaska.
  • Identifying and purchasing "system" software which can be used to accept data from a variety of sources (keyboard, internet files and remote client software) to provide data analysis and reports which can be used at a local, regional and state level.
  • Hosting a two day forum on data collection which showcases state of the art EMS data collection software and includes a one day NHTSA EMS Information Systems (EMSIS) workshop to provide information on implementation issues, including financial, political, legal and technological matters, and to assist us in refining our plan of action.
  • Funding technical experts to present information on data collection and reporting at EMS symposia.
  • Developing sustainable capabilities within Emergency Programs to accept datafiles and provide meaningful and timely reports to local EMS agencies.
  • Surveying communities to identify local data needs and capabilities.
  • Encouraging emergency medical services, hospitals and clinics to work together to ensure that prehospital run reports are made part of the patient's official hospital record.

Phase II: Development of System Resources in Key Communities

The second phase of the plan includes making the system operational (acquiring and analyzing data and providing reports to local communities) and "priming the pump" by:

  • Facilitating the development of "data translation" software which can take the data from data software widely used in Alaska (such as NFIRS) and convert it into a format useable by the statewide data reporting software used by Emergency Programs.
  • Encouraging larger EMS systems, which are already collecting electronic data, to submit the data on a periodic basis to the statewide EMS data collection program.
  • Funding software and hardware for use by key communities.
  • Working with the Alaska State Fire Marshal's Office to develop a plan for acquiring EMS data from NFIRS compatible software used by fire service based EMS agencies.
  • Demonstrating the usefulness of comprehensive and credible prehospital EMS data.

Phase III: Full System Implementation and Continuation of Local Resource Development

The last phase of the plan expands the number of services participating in statewide data collection and reporting activities. Characteristics of this phase include:

  • An increased number of services submitting data and receiving reports.
  • Funding hardware and software for several more communities.
  • More widespread (local, regional and state) and targeted use of data acquired through the state EMS data collection system.
  • An increased number of requests for reports and data analyses from the statewide data collection system from EMS agencies, local and state governments, and the media.

The Ultimate Goal:

Ideally, every service will be submitting data on every response to a medical event, and the analysis of this population based data would be used to develop and support medical and program policy decisions, as well as funding issues.


This web page has provided information on the ambitious plans of the Section of Rural and Community Health Systems. We believe a comprehensive data system is essential to ensure the medical appropriateness and financial well-being of the EMS System in Alaska. Comments on this plan, both positive and negative, as well as suggestions for improving the plan are welcome and can be sent to the State EMS Office Manager.  Contact information can be found on our section contact page.