To reach Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers and the leaders of those organizations effectively, public safety marketers have to understand and approach this group as a unique audience. After all, EMS has one foot firmly in the healthcare world, and the other in public safety. At any given time, they’re straddling these lines–participating in a rescue and then delivering advanced clinical care.
EMS practitioners face their own, separate set of operational challenges and responsibilities, different from those of any other public safety discipline.
Knowing how EMS departments operate and the specific working conditions EMS clinicians encounter is essential to creating a marketing program that resonates with this group. To that end, here are four insights to help you optimize your EMS marketing efforts.
1. There Are Four Shades of Emergency Medical Response.
If you’ve seen one EMS agency…you’ve seen one EMS agency. At least that’s the tired cliché. Admittedly, it’d be difficult to draw any wide-ranging conclusions based on visiting or observing a single EMS operation.
From a high level, EMS delivery comes in a variety of forms: The four primary types of EMS delivery include fire-based, hospital-based, private ambulance and third-service. While there are similarities across these delivery types, there are differences, too.
Roughlyone million people serve in EMS roles in the U.S.—as paramedics, EMTs or in other full-time and volunteer capacities. EMS personnel use nearly 73,500 ground vehicles (ambulances and fire apparatus) to respond to almost 30 million 911 dispatches every year. And while the ambulance is the most recognized emergency medical response vehicle, more than 750 services licensed by state EMS authorities also provide rapid transportation by flying patients via helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
As a public safety marketer, you don’t just need to understand how EMS differs from other public safety services. You have to know how the various EMS provider types differ from one another.
Firefighters are often the first ones to arrive at the scene of an emergency. In fact, for most fire departments, EMS makes up more than 80% of their 911 call volume.
So it makes sense that fire-based EMS should be one of your target audiences. Keep in mind that for most products and services, you can be more targeted than reaching every firefighter and fire chief.
For example, by working with theInternational Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), you could reach their entire membership of 11,000. But if you want to be more targeted for your EMS solution, you could choose to reach the 2,000 or so members of theIAFC’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Section. They’re an influential group across fire service EMS.
While hospital-based EMS agencies are not the most common delivery form, they are an important audience for your marketing. As part of a hospital system, these EMS agencies are often among the first to implement solutions that connect the prehospital world to the hospital. They often operate with patient outcome data not available to other EMS agencies. Like their hospital parent, hospital-based EMS systems are often data-driven in making purchasing decisions and adoptions.
Hospital-based EMS is an ideal target for those with solutions that span prehospital to the emergency department.
Privately run ambulance services account for18% of EMS providers. Because they are privately owned and operated, they can often be more nimble in their procurement processes and have faster purchasing cycles. For private EMS services, operational costs and efficiencies are a key consideration.
With a new software system, for example, a private ambulance service may be more interested in a monthly subscription model, while a government-run provider may look to purchase the software outright with a one-time capital expenditure.
For connecting with private ambulance services, theAmerican Ambulance Association is a key member organization with a well-attended annual conference.
Third-service EMS providers are funded and run by local governments, just like fire and police departments. “Third-service” refers to EMS being one of the trio of local government emergency services, along with fire and police. Third-service EMS agencies are often among the most innovative. They have a singular focus in their charter and often are able to push the envelope in their patient care and operations. You’ll often find these agencies trialing new technologies and clinical interventions.
2. EMS Marketing is Mobile-First.
Most EMS practitioners don’t have access to a laptop in the field. EMS practitioners spend most of their shifts in their ambulances and they rely on mobile devices to help with critical aspects of their jobs—drug dosages, local protocols, continuing education, etc.
In designing your marketing strategies and tactics, be sure to account for how EMS personnel operate in their work environment. For mobile apps, that means making it easy to save and return to content (you never know when you’ll be interrupted by a call or other split-second changes in immediate priorities). You also want to be mindful in the way you request and collect user information. Take a minimalist approach in designing your contact forms—two or three simple queries to find their preferred communication method.
3. Medical Directors Are Key EMS Purchasing Influencers.
Purchasing decisions are not typically exclusively dependent on the blessing of the EMS service’s medical director. However, if your product, service or technology impacts patient care, you’ll want to get the doc on your side. There are9,300 physicians serving as local EMS medical directors. How do you get a line on them?
The two major associations of emergency physicians are a great place to start: theNational Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP) and theAmerican College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). Establishing a presence at their conferences is a good way to introduce yourself to this key audience.
Making a good first impression counts, too. You’ll want to speak to them in their language. That means presenting evidence-based claims and speaking through data. And this leads us to our final insight….
4. EMS Marketing is Data-Driven.
EMS practitioners see themselves as occupying roles in two connected, but distinct, worlds: public safety and public health. Data is critical to both. So whether you’re targeting EMS medical directors, administrators or practitioners, your product/service pitch has to be presented with evidence and backed by hard proof.
The EMS marketing world is small, and relationships still matter a great deal. Peer referrals and word of mouth are great strategies to help get your (brand’s) foot in the door. But to capture real interest that lasts past that initial conversation, you’ll want to have some real, impactful numbers ready for your prospects to consider.
Crafting Effective EMS Marketing Strategies
EMS is really the only public safety discipline with universally accepted national certification. But while the standards of paramedics and EMTs are largely the same everywhere, no two EMS provider organizations are the same. Experienced public safety marketers know to do their research in order to narrow the scopes on their targets. The success of your EMS marketing efforts depend on your ability to understand your audience broadly, know your prospects individually and present compelling, evidence-based solutions that meet actual needs.
Please check out our other blog posts about marketing to other public safety disciplines:911,law enforcement andthe fire service. And if you’re ready to start a conversation about your marketing efforts,we’d love to talk.