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J Rural Health. 2003 Fall;19(4):492-6.

Emergency medical services in rural areas: the supporting role of state EMS agencies.

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University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center, 2221 University Avenue SE, Suite 112, Minneapolis, MN 55414, USA.



EMS is an integral part of health care and is especially important in less densely populated areas. What is known about EMS in rural areas is limited because of fragmentation in the system and rudimentary data collection efforts.


The goal of this study is to identify important issues faced by rural EMS systems and describe the support of rural EMS providers by state EMS agencies.


A telephone survey of state EMS directors (response rate 95.7%) asked questions regarding issues in medical direction, programs, and initiatives by state EMS agencies that target rural and volunteer EMS providers, integration initiatives, and anticipated effects of the new Medicare fee schedule.


Medical direction in rural EMS was identified as a major issue for a majority of states. Integration in EMS is seen as a possible solution but does not occur very commonly. The survey found substantial variation in the state approach to EMS issues. Less than a third of the states in the study have a statewide EMS plan. State EMS agencies address rural EMS provider needs in a limited manner. EMS state agencies focus on regulation and funding of EMS providers, with only approximately a third providing technical assistance to EMS providers.


The range in approaches to EMS issues at the state level will need to be taken into account in formulating national EMS policy. The limited provision of technical assistance leaves a void that may be addressed by other agencies and organizations in some states. In the absence of major federal funding initiatives, the development of EMS has become a state and local issue. A new national initiative may help address EMS issues and stimulate the development of EMS as a system beyond its current fragmented state.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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