Public Perception of Emergency Medical Services in the United States

Prehosp Disaster Med. 2016 Dec;31(S1):S112-S117. doi: 10.1017/S1049023X16001126. Epub 2016 Nov 25.


Objective: The objective of this study was to assess the public's experience, expectations, and perceptions related to Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

Methods: A population-based telephone interview of adults in the United States was conducted. The survey instrument consisted of 112 items. Demographic variables including age, race, political beliefs, and household income were collected. Data collection was performed by trained interviewers from Kent State University's (Kent, Ohio USA)Social Research Laboratory. Descriptive statistics were calculated. Comparative analyses were conducted between those who used EMS at least once in the past five years and those who did not use EMS using χ2 and t tests.

Results: A total of 2,443 phone calls were made and 1,348 individuals agreed to complete the survey (55.2%). There were 297 individuals who requested to drop out of the survey during the phone interview, leaving a total of 1,051 (43.0%) full responses. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 94 years with an average age of 57.5 years. Most were Caucasian or white (83.0%), married (62.8%), and held conservative political beliefs (54.8%). Three-fourths of all respondents believed that at least 40% of patients survive cardiac arrest when EMS services are received. Over half (56.7%) believed that Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)-Basics and EMT-Paramedics provide the same level of care. The estimated median hours of training required for EMT-Basics was 100 hours (IQR: 40-200 hours), while the vast majority of respondents estimated that EMT-Paramedics are required to take fewer than 1,000 clock hours of training (99.3%). The majority believed EMS professionals should be screened for illegal drug use (97.0%), criminal background (95.9%), mental health (95.2%), and physical fitness (91.3%). Over one-third (37.6%) had used EMS within the past five years. Of these individuals, over two-thirds (69.6%) rated their most recent experience as "excellent." More of those who used EMS at least once in the past five years reported a willingness to consent to participate in EMS research compared with those who had not used EMS (69.9% vs. 61.4%, P=.005).

Conclusions: Most respondents who had used EMS services rated their experience as excellent. Nevertheless, expectations related to survival after cardiac arrest in the out-of-hospital setting were not realistic. Furthermore, much of the public was unaware of the differences in training hour requirements and level of care provided by EMT-Basics and EMT-Paramedics. Crowe RP , Levine R , Rodriguez S , Larrimore AD , Pirrallo RG . Public perception of Emergency Medical Services in the United States. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2016;31(Suppl. 1):s112-s117.

Keywords: CPR cardiopulmonary resuscitation; EMS Emergency Medical Services; EMT Emergency Medical Technician; NREMT National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians; Emergency Medical Services; paramedic; prehospital; public opinion.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Emergency Medical Services / trends*
  • Emergency Medical Technicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Telephone
  • United States
  • Young Adult