Questions and answers about a proposed increase in ambulance response times

Why is EMSA looking to increase response time?
EMSA commissioned an independent, third-party assessment of best practices for emergency medical service providers from across the country. The purpose of the assessment was to determine best practices for a request for proposal (RFP) for EMSA paramedic contractors. The OU School of Community Medicine authored the assessment and provided the recommendation that EMSA increase allotted response times from its current time of within 8 minutes 59 seconds to 10 minutes and 59 seconds for life threatening emergencies. While EMSA is required to arrive within 8 minutes 59 seconds, in the majority of instances, EMSA arrives within six minutes from the time of the initial 911 call.   
What is the potential impact on medical care?
According to national trends and medical literature, the increased response time shows no clinical difference for medical outcomes. This is true for both trauma patients, as well as medical patients. This even applies in serious life-threatening emergencies, such as cardiac arrest.
Why does it take EMSA so long to respond to an emergency?
Our emergency medical system is a multi-layered system that includes lifesaving care the minute a 911 call is placed. From the moment a caller connects with a dispatcher, that person is receiving step-by-step instructions to provide interim care until medical help arrives. First responders (fire fighters) are required to respond first and provide basic emergency care until an ambulance arrives. Once the ambulance arrives, medics begin providing lifesaving medical care while on the scene and en route to the hospital. 
Who is going to make the response time change?
The Medical Control Board, which oversees all aspects of patient care provided by first responders, has reviewed the recommendation and has also recommended the change.
Clinical outcomes or mortality rates, in relationship to response times, are most affected by patient care starting within the first five minutes. This is why we have a robust system of 911 dispatchers who give pre-arrival instructions and first responders who are required to respond within the first five minutes. 
The EMSA board has requested the new RFP be distributed to include pricing of response times at the current 8 minutes 59 seconds and 10 minutes 59 seconds. A decision regarding changing response times is still several months away and is not being taken lightly by EMSA, the Medical Control Board or the EMSA board of directors.
Why is EMSA considering the switch to longer response times?
The change is based solely on evidence-based clinical data. It is a more clinically efficient and safer way for us to respond to emergency calls. The recommended change will also allow for a safer driving response which is a critically important safety issue for EMS personnel and citizens.
How fast is EMSA required to respond?

In Tulsa and the western division, EMSA is required to respond to 90 percent of life-threatening emergencies within 8 minutes and 59 seconds. The response time requirement is 11 minutes and 59 seconds in Bixby, Jenks and Sand Springs. EMSA must respond to non-life threatening emergencies within 12 minutes, 59 seconds. EMSA's average response time is actually less than 6 minutes.

Return to the Safety Resource Center