Background: Limited access to, understanding of, and trust in paper-based patient information is a key factor influencing paramedic decisions to transfer patients nearing end-of-life to hospital. Practical solutions to this problem are rarely examined in research. This paper explores the extent to which access to, and quality of, patient information affects the care paramedics provide to patients nearing end-of-life, and their views on a shared electronic record as a means of accessing up-to-date patient information.
Method: Semi-structured interviews with paramedics (n = 10) based in the north of England, drawn from a group of health and social care professionals (n = 61) participating in a study exploring data recording and sharing practices in end-of-life care. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.
Results: Two key themes were identified regarding paramedic views of patient information: 1) access to information on patients nearing end-of-life, and 2) views on the proposed EPaCCS. Paramedics reported they are typically unable to access up-to-date patient information, particularly advance care planning documents, and consequently often feel they have little option but to actively treat and transport patients to hospital – a decision not always appropriate for, or desired by, the patient. While paramedics acknowledged a shared electronic record (such as EPaCCs) could support them to provide community-based care where desired and appropriate, numerous practical and technical issues must be overcome to ensure the successful implementation of such a record.
Conclusions: Access to up-to-date patient information is a barrier to paramedics delivering appropriate end-of-life care. Current approaches to information recording are often inconsistent, inaccurate, and inaccessible to paramedics. Whilst a shared electronic record may provide paramedics with greater and timelier access to patient information, meaning they are better able to facilitate community-based care, this is only one of a series of improvements required to enable this to become routine practice.