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Coffee Break Bulletin

Quality Management in Emergency Medical Services

Posted: June 26, 2017

This bulletin defines quality management in Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

EMS agencies have a commitment to providing quality patient care to patients who are injured or ill. The process of patient care is guided by protocols and policies. Over time, patient care protocols and agency policies have changed based on a variety of inputs, sometimes including research in the medical profession, anecdotal evidence from neighboring agencies, and even legal advice from governing bodies.

EMS agencies typically have a requirement to maintain a Quality Improvement (QI) or Quality Assurance (QA) Program. Often, these programs are linked to patient-care report reviews for compliance with protocols and policies.

So what is quality management?

Let’s start with a few definitions.

(1) A character, characteristic or property of anything that makes it good or bad, commendable or reprehensible, thus the degree of excellence that a thing possesses. (2) The total quality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs.
Quality Assurance
All planned or systemic actions necessary to provide adequate confidence that a service or product will satisfy, given requirements for quality.
Quality Improvement
The process of working toward higher levels of performance or quality associated with changes in system or process design, rather than improving process compliance quality assurance.
The National Fire Academy recommends using the term “Quality Management” as an overarching process for process improvement.

Quality Management uses both QA and QI to assess current quality and to develop, implement and measure an improvement process. Through the use of Quality Management, the likelihood of desired health outcomes for our patients can be improved based on process and evidence.

Action step for starting or improving your department’s Quality Management Program

Learn more about how quality management can benefit your department by enrolling in the National Fire Academy’s six-day course, Emergency Medical Services: Quality Management.

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