The Role of Emergency Medical Services in Geriatrics: Bridging the Gap between Primary and Acute Care.
Goldstein J, McVey J, Ackroyd-Stolarz S.
Caring for older adults is a major function of emergency medical services (EMS). Traditional EMS systems were designed to treat single acute conditions; this approach contrasts with best practices for the care of frail older adults. Care might be improved by the early identification of those who are frail and at highest risk for adverse outcomes. Paramedics are well positioned to play an important role via a more thorough evaluation of frailty (or vulnerability). These findings may inform both pre-hospital and subsequent emergency department (ED) based decisions. Innovative programs involving EMS, the ED, and primary care could reduce the workload on EDs while improving patient access to care, and ultimately patient outcomes. Some frail older adults will benefit from the resources and specialized knowledge provided by the ED, while others may be better helped in alternative ways, usually in coordination with primary care. Discerning between these groups is a challenge worthy of further inquiry. In either case, care should be timely, with a focus on identifying emergent or acute care needs, frailty evaluation, mobility assessments, identifying appropriate goals for treatment, promoting functional independence, and striving to have the patient return to their usual place of residence if this can be done safely. Paramedics are uniquely positioned to play a larger role in the care of our aging population. Improving paramedic education as it pertains to geriatrics is a critical next step.