EMS Response Time

Goal: Average response time of less than 8 minutes.

  • What is this?

    Emergency Medical Service (EMS) provides rescue, stabilization, acute medical treatment and transportation to the hospital for patients with traumatic injury or medical emergencies. EMS response time is the time it takes for EMS responders to arrive on the scene once they've been dispatched.

  • Why does it matter?

    For patients with the most traumatic or acute medical conditions, their odds of survival increase greatly the earlier they receive appropriate medical treatment. Rapidly applied treatment by trained personnel, followed by physician care in a hospital emergency room, is the key to good outcomes for gravely ill and injured patients.

  • Who is responsible?

    Memphis Fire Department

  • How do we measure performance?

    We measure our performance by the speed of our response and by comparing that speed to national standards.

How is the EMS response time calculated?

EMS calls are set in motion when a person dials 9-1-1 and EMS personnel and equipment are dispatched. After arriving on the scene, EMS responders provide pre-hospital care, then transport patients to the emergency room for further treatment. Response time is calculated from the moment the first responders receive the dispatch order to the moment they arrive on the scene.

What is the state of EMS response times in Memphis?

Our goal is to respond to EMS calls in 8 minutes or less on average from the moment of dispatch (the national standard), but we do not consistently meet that goal. May is the first month of 2015 in which we achieved an average response time of 8 minutes or less. Among other factors, we are impacted by the heavy use of the EMS system for non-life-threatening (or "non-emergent") medical issues. When Memphians use EMS for non-emergent needs, fewer crews are available to respond to emergency calls for service, and those crews may have to travel further to other scenes, which increases the time it takes for us to get medical care to those who need it most. Between 20% and 25% of EMS resources are consumed each month in response to calls that are non-emergent. That represents a 10% increase during the last three years.

How is the city working to improve EMS response time?

Since non-emergent calls adversely affect our response time, the Memphis Fire Department is taking action to help reduce the number of non-emergent callsthat we receive while connecting patients to the most appropriate medical care for their condition.

  • Preventive Healthcare Education: Using Firefighters and Paramedics to provide both preventive healthcare education for common illnesses/injuries and chronic disease management.
  • Health Navigators: Providing connections to appropriate social and medical services for the small number of individuals who routinely rely on EMS for non-emergent issues.
  • Nurse Based Dispatch: Using specially trained nurses as part of the EMS dispatch team to help determine level of care needed and to connect non-emergent calls to appropriate care.
  • Community Paramedicine: Helping chronically ill patients recently released from the hospital to comply with treatment protocols to prevent a recurrence that requires an EMS response.

These initiatives will be complemented and enhanced by an IBM "Smarter Cities Challenge" grant recently awarded to the Memphis Fire Department. In the fall of 2015, an IBM team will spend three weeks working closely with staff from the Memphis Fire Department and other city divisions analyzing data about the growing volume of non-emergent EMS calls. The team will meet with local officials, residents, businesses, and not-for-profits and will examine best practices used by other cities. The IBM team will then recommend a specifically tailored road map for how Memphis can improve.

We will pilot these programs at a small scale to evaulate whether they have the desired impacts. If they improve patient service and decrease EMS response time, we will expand the programs throughout the city.

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