Strategies for Avoiding EMS Control Liability

When providing medical control, devote appropriate attention to cases involving emergency medical services. Patients in the field deserve no less attention than those actually in the ED.

  • Demand adequate patient reports from EMS personnel in the field. Repeat crucial information over the radio or telephone to minimize the likelihood of misinterpretation. Ask questions if the report seems unclear or incomplete.
  • Ensure the competence of EMS personnel under your control through appropriate training, testing, and supervision.
  • Acquaint yourself with the EMS personnel to whom you will provide medical direction. Learn their strengths and weaknesses. Familiarize yourself with the EMS system, its capabilities, and limitations. Remember that EMTs and paramedics often must provide emergency care under less-than-optimal conditions.
  • Require appropriate documentation.
  • Familiarize yourself with the EMS statutes and regulations of the jurisdiction in which you will provide medical control. Pay particular attention to EMS treatment protocols, so as not to recommend treatment that falls outside the scope of practice of the EMTs or paramedics.
  • Adhere at all times to the relevant standard of care.
  • Remember that your actions as a provider of medical control might create civil liability not only for you, but also for the EMS system, the hospital in which you practice, and the EMS personnel.

Source: What is physician/nurse liability for directing activities of EMTs? ED Legal Letter 2001; 12:61-72.