This analysis seeks to identify emerging forms of organizations in emergency medical services (EMS) in the United States, to provide examples of them, to relate them to changes in healthcare generally, and to apply a classification scheme. Public policy issues related to these new forms of organizations and lessons from other areas of the healthcare system are identified.
Recent changes in the healthcare system in the United States have been marked by modifications in the structure of organizations that provide and pay for health services. New forms of organizations and alliances among existing organizations have emerged in an effort to improve the efficiency of the services provided and to improve organizations' market positions.
Reflecting increased competition within EMS and the demands of the changing health-care delivery system, several types of organizations have begun to emerge in EMS that resemble those occurring in health care generally. These include forms of horizontal integration, such as consolidated ambulance services and various models of ambulance service networks; and forms of vertical integration, such as demand management programs and public-private joint ventures. The ultimate end might be complete integration with a carve-out of all non-scheduled care.
Although changes in EMS organizations result largely from marketplace decisions by sellers and purchasers, this does not mean that there is no public policy role. While new organizational forms may increase the ambulance industry's efficiency, public policy makers must be concerned about quality and access as well. Some policy responses will promote marketplace changes, others will accept them generally, but will seek to correct problems, and a third group will attempt to restrain the market.