Objective: Change from quality assurance (QA) to quality improvement (QI) in EMS has been adopted by many systems. This study sought to determine whether QI is effective in this setting.
Methods: A QI program comprised of prospective, concurrent, and retrospective components was instituted in 1994 by the Salt Lake City Fire Department. The retrospective component of the program consisted of monthly random audits of approximately 6% of EMS patient care reports (PCRs), both ALS and BLS. PCRs were evaluated for adequate documentation of six patient assessment parameters, appropriate treatment, and short-term outcome. Time intervals and adherence to protocol were also evaluated. Overall documentation and performance were rated. Monthly and cumulative QI reports were circulated to all providers, and both positive feedback and negative feedback were provided to specific crews. Continuing medical education sessions were tailored to address problems identified by the QI audits and scene observation. Results of 1,862 reviews from 1994-1995 were compared with baseline figures from 1993.
Results: Response, scene, and transport times were acceptable in more than 90% of cases in both the baseline and the study periods. Statistically significant improvements were noted in the following parameters: documentation of patient assessment, protocol compliance, patient disposition, overall documentation, overall performance, and need for further review. In nontransport cases, both appropriateness of the release decision and acquisition of appropriate signatures improved, but not significantly.
Conclusion: Significant improvements were noted in 13 of 19 parameters and goals were met in 14, with results sustained over the two-year study period. A quality improvement program can effect significant and sustained improvement in documentation and performance in an EMS system.