What would Americans do if federal law compromised how and how quickly paramedics can treat them or their child in a medical emergency? Thanks to an increasingly outspoken group of emergency physicians and bipartisan congressional collaboration, the bill that today became law ensures that they will never have to find out.
Yet this victory is just the first step in upending long-enduring misconceptions of emergency medical service’s (EMS) role, which hampers patient care quality and raises emergency medical treatment costs nation-wide.
The ability of EMS providers, such as paramedics, to provide rapid medical care relies on a combination of training and “standing orders,” which allow them to immediately perform certain procedures without waiting for a physician director’s permission. Any such delay in care can make a critical difference in the patient’s survival and suffering – but this exact delay nearly became law.
A few years ago, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) began deliberations on an unenforced provision of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which required a physician-written prescription to administer controlled substances. Despite intervention led by the National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP) and allied stakeholders, the DEA proceeded with the intention to criminalize EMS administration of certain life-saving standing orders.
Click here to read the full op-ed from The Hill.