One of the challenges we as EMS providers face is trying to fit patients into a limited set of guidelines we are given and make the best possible choice from what the corresponding protocols tell us. The truth is that these are rarely written in the best interest or to advocate for the patient, but more often is defensive medicine hard wired into the system placing a financial burden on victims. Despite having scientifically proven alternatives, we often stay the course as we are both against change and the potential additional cost the system may incur.
So is the case when dealing with decision making capabilities of patients who have consumed alcohol. Many protocols are ham fisted blanket statements that cost the patient and the system to incur unnecessary costs. Yet there are scientifically proven ways to better handle the calls that fall under this category that keeps both the needs of the patient and the system in mind. Simply stated, EMS needs breathalyzers or field sobriety test training.
I delve into this topic deeper in my EMS1.com article The need for objective alcohol consumption assessment in EMS.
From the article:
The effects of alcohol vary by individual, based on a number of factors including height, weight, gender and both the type and amount of alcohol consumed. Environmental conditions and caloric intake – or a lack thereof – can also be contributing factors.
Due to the number of variables involved, there needs to be an objective way to measure what effects alcohol consumption has on an individual. The Standardized Field Sobriety Test is the law enforcement method of determining intoxication without the use of devices, however its administration requires additional training and it remains a subjective assessment.
For a scientifically proven objective assessment, law enforcement relies on the breathalyzer. This method also requires additional training and physical tools, but has the benefit of being widely-accepted by scientists, the courts and the public as an unbiased evaluation.
It is my belief that even where Emergency Medical Services do not care enough to properly assess decision making capabilities of their patient population, it should be Event Medical Services rising above and embracing these techniques to provide the best service to their clients and their guests.
What are your thoughts? Do you think objective alcohol assessment should be implemented or are you a believer that the system currently in place is adequate?? Let me know what you think in the comments…