Introduction: In a 2015 report, the Institute of Medicine (IOM; Washington, DC USA), now the National Academy of Medicine (NAM; Washington, DC USA), stated that the field of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) exhibits signs of fragmentation; an absence of system-wide coordination and planning; and a lack of federal, state, and local accountability. The NAM recommended clarifying what roles the federal government, state governments, and local communities play in the oversight and evaluation of EMS system performance, and how they may better work together to improve care.
Objective: This systematic literature review and environmental scan addresses NAM's recommendations by answering two research questions: (1) what aspects of EMS systems are most measured in the peer-reviewed and grey literatures, and (2) what do these measures and studies suggest for high-quality EMS oversight?
Methods: To answer these questions, a systematic literature review was conducted in the PubMed (National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Institutes of Health; Bethesda, Maryland USA), Web of Science (Thomson Reuters; New York, New York USA), SCOPUS (Elsevier; Amsterdam, Netherlands), and EMBASE (Elsevier; Amsterdam, Netherlands) databases for peer-reviewed literature and for grey literature; targeted web searches of 10 EMS-related government agencies and professional organizations were performed. Inclusion criteria required peer-reviewed literature to be published between 1966-2016 and grey literature to be published between 1996-2016. A total of 1,476 peer-reviewed titles were reviewed, 76 were retrieved for full-text review, and 58 were retained and coded in the qualitative software Dedoose (Manhattan Beach, California USA) using a codebook of themes. Categorizations of measure type and level of application were assigned to the extracted data. Targeted websites were systematically reviewed and 115 relevant grey literature documents were retrieved.
Results: A total of 58 peer-reviewed articles met inclusion criteria; 46 included process, 36 outcomes, and 18 structural measures. Most studies applied quality measures at the personnel level (40), followed by the agency (28) and system of care (28), and few at the oversight level (5). Numerous grey literature articles provided principles for high-quality EMS oversight.
Conclusions: Limited quality measurement at the oversight level is an important gap in the peer-reviewed literature. The grey literature is ahead in this realm and can guide the policy and research agenda for EMS oversight quality measurement.