Emergency Medical Dispatch

What is Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD)?

Emergency Medical Dispatch refers to a system that enhances services provided by Public Safety Answering Points. An Emergency Medical Dispatcher is a professional telecommunicatior, tasked with the gathering of information related to medical emergencies by quickly narrowing down the caller’s type of medical or trauma situation, so as to better dispatch emergency services, and provide quality instructions before help arrives. The term Emergency Medical Dispatcher is also a certification level and a professional designation, certified through the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International (APCO), the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch, and Power Phone Inc.

In the early days of 9-1-1, dispatchers were on their own without a protocol system to accurately and consistently dispatch needed support or assign the necessary resources to the variety of calls coming in to their centers. There were no key questions to narrow and focus calls or pre-arrival instructions such as CPR to help the caller until the needed help arrived. For the most part, dispatchers told callers that help was on its way and after that, the dispatcher would disconnect the line to move on to the next caller.

The quick and often hasty response ultimately wasted time and resources. Without sufficient information about the situation, the agency risked sending the wrong emergency services and the caller was left without the benefit of further, life-saving instructions while waiting for whatever was sent to help. The response system was lacking at its most critical period, and call centers throughout the country were providing varied levels of care to a public in crisis. Response teams were stretched to the limits, responding to simple problems while across the city someone was in need of critical care. Something had to be done.

What is Medical Priority Dispatch System® (MPDS)?

The MPDS is in part based on published standards by the National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP), the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the American Medical Association (AMA), and more than 20 years of research, development, and field testing throughout the world.

The protocol contains 34 Chief Complaint Protocols, Case Entry and Exit information, call termination scripts, and additional verbatim instruction protocols for AED support, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), childbirth assistance, tracheotomy airway and breathing, and the Heimlich maneuver. Special protocols for stroke identification, aspirin administration, pandemic flu triage, and lost person locating are coming out this year.

More Information

For more information on Emergency Medical Dispatch, Medical Priority Dispatch System, and the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch, visit the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch website.
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