The Future of EMS: A Glimpse Into 2050

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of EMS Week with the theme, “Honoring Our Past, Forging Our Future,” it seems a fitting time to take a glimpse into the future of EMS. Although the future is always uncertain, a specific vision for the nation’s EMS systems was laid out in 2019, the result of a collaborative effort by leaders throughout the EMS community. The resulting plan was built around principles designed to guide the advancement of EMS, even as technologies and best practices evolve. EMS Agenda 2050 describes what the country’s EMS systems could look like in the year 2050. It imagines an exciting future built upon advanced technologies and an expanded scope of practice, yet one that remains people-centered. A future that could look something like this:

It’s Sunday, May 22, 2050, and 9-year-old Carla Hernandez walks into the backyard, taking care not to step on the tomato plants just beginning to grow. As she kneels to begin pulling weeds, she feels a sharp pain in her leg and reflexively swings for the bug that might be biting her. A minute later, she suddenly feels lightheaded and sick to her stomach. The wooziness scares her, and the panic is evident in her voice when she calls out to her grandmother for help. Carla’s grandmother hurries outside and finds her granddaughter lying on the grass, pale and gasping for air. Carla’s earring beeps—wearable devices come in almost any shape nowadays—and then a voice comes out of the tiny speaker. 

“Carla, Hi, it’s Abdi, a telemedic at the Medical Communication Center. We received an alert that there might be a problem. Are you feeling OK?” Pressing a button on her mobile device, Carla’s grandmother activates the emergency program and Abdi’s face appears on her screen. “I see her eyes are open,” Abdi says. “Is she responding to you?” “No, and her breathing doesn’t sound good either. Please help! I don’t know what to do.” Abdi continues to speak to Carla’s grandmother while monitoring the young girl’s vital signs. 

Soon, a familiar voice calls out that he’s here to help, and Carla’s grandmother recognizes one of her neighbors as he walks around the corner of the house to the backyard. A retired respiratory therapist, he is a registered community medical volunteer and received a notification at home that a serious medical emergency was occurring nearby. Carla’s grandmother waves him over, just as an emergency medical kit drone lands safely a few yards away. She feels her heart pounding in her chest as she watches her neighbor talk to Abdi and quickly access the medication administrator from the drone. He programs the device to epinephrine and sticks it on Carla’s arm. It quickly reassesses her vital signs, weight and other parameters and administers the calculated appropriate dose…

While we’re not certain what the year 2050 will look like, we can agree that EMS could look very different by then. EMS Agenda 2050 is an inspiring take on what lies ahead in EMS, and it lays out how EMS professionals can forge the future together. The actions we take as clinicians and EMS leaders can help make the vision a reality. It’s the people of EMS: patients and communities, the people who care for them, and the people who support those clinicians—who will lead the way toward 2050.