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PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e32692. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032692. Epub 2012 Mar 5.

Prehospital electronic patient care report systems: early experiences from emergency medical services agency leaders.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.



As the United States embraces electronic health records (EHRs), improved emergency medical services (EMS) information systems are also a priority; however, little is known about the experiences of EMS agencies as they adopt and implement electronic patient care report (e-PCR) systems. We sought to characterize motivations for adoption of e-PCR systems, challenges associated with adoption and implementation, and emerging implementation strategies.


We conducted a qualitative study using semi-structured in-depth interviews with EMS agency leaders. Participants were recruited through a web-based survey of National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP) members, a didactic session at the 2010 NAEMSP Annual Meeting, and snowball sampling. Interviews lasted approximately 30 minutes, were recorded and professionally transcribed. Analysis was conducted by a five-person team, employing the constant comparative method to identify recurrent themes.


Twenty-three interviewees represented 20 EMS agencies from the United States and Canada; 14 EMS agencies were currently using e-PCR systems. The primary reason for adoption was the potential for e-PCR systems to support quality assurance efforts. Challenges to e-PCR system adoption included those common to any health information technology project, as well as challenges unique to the prehospital setting, including: fear of increased ambulance run times leading to decreased ambulance availability, difficulty integrating with existing hospital information systems, and unfunded mandates requiring adoption of e-PCR systems. Three recurring strategies emerged to improve e-PCR system adoption and implementation: 1) identify creative funding sources; 2) leverage regional health information organizations; and 3) build internal information technology capacity.


EMS agencies are highly motivated to adopt e-PCR systems to support quality assurance efforts; however, adoption and implementation of e-PCR systems has been challenging for many. Emerging strategies from EMS agencies and others that have successfully implemented EHRs may be useful in expanding e-PCR system use and facilitating this transition for other EMS agencies.

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