The North Dakota Emergency Medical Services Association is dedicated to improving community health and safety, and over the past three years, they have been doing so thanks to the power of data.

The Center for Rural Health at the University of North Dakota was awarded a grant in 2018 to participate in a demonstration project for 120 EMS agencies across North Dakota to see how they performed during 911 calls compared to the national average.

The goal of this project was for Emergency Service agencies in North Dakota to determine which practices will help improve positive patient outcomes.

“The problem that we were trying to solve with this project is rural EMS faces challenges that are different from EMS that operates in urban settings. And there was no specific set of performance measures to say whether or not we’re providing the best care,” said Remle Crowe, director of the clinic and operational research for ESO.

Although some parts of North Dakota are considered “urban,” many metro EMS agencies must report to rural areas throughout the state.

That means response times and performances can be very different in rural areas than in urban ones.

PJ Ringdahl, regional director for North Dakota’s Emergency Medical Services Association, says that response times are no longer the most important factor when responding to an emergency.

“The demographic here is all over the place. A lot of these services have lower call volume but they’re still performing the high technical skills as anybody else is in EMS. But they’re just on their own. They might be an hour or more away from another provider. So having this information to help them improve what they’re doing out there, and getting them the tools that they need, is really important. Especially in those super rural areas,” said Ringdahl.

According to the report from ESO, North Dakota is above the national average in pain management and pain intervention.

This means that patients who had a pain level of five or higher before EMS arrived reported that their pain level lowered once EMS treated them.

However, when dealing with patients suffering from strokes, North Dakota is below the national average.

But thankfully with this data, Crowe says the EMS agencies can focus on training and reevaluating protocols for stroke victims and improve.

“We probably don’t see a patient with a stroke every single day; that’s a rare event. So how can we make sure that when that rare event happens, we are prepared and remember to document the things that we need to?” said Crowe.

Thanks to this report, Crowe says she has seen improved relationships between EMS agencies and hospitals.

And now, stories can be given to the community based on facts and numbers, and, of course, better results for the patients.

North Dakota EMS responded to nearly 110,000 calls in 2021.