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Care starts with a call: REMSA Health’s Regional Emergency Communications Center Achieves Eighth Consecutive Accreditation for Excellence

By REMSA Health Director of Regional Communications, Christine Barton, EMD-I, ED-Q, EFD

At REMSA Health, we believe that when someone dials 9-1-1 for a medical emergency, their care starts with the call. Therefore, the medical dispatchers on the other end of the line are highly-trained and clinically-certified care providers. 

In our commitment to providing quality care at every point in the patient journey, the REMSA Health Regional Emergency Communications Center has achieved its eighth consecutive accreditation from the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED) as an Accredited Center of Excellence (ACE).

Accreditation ensures that emergency medical dispatch centers maintain high performance and best practices, resulting in quality care for patients.

What does it take to earn accreditation?

In 2001, the REMSA Health Regional Emergency Communications Center became the first communications agency to earn the ACE designation in Nevada and has consistently maintained the distinction through seven re-accreditations. To date, there are only 11 agencies in the world that have achieved and maintained accreditation for over 20 years.

Accreditation through the IAED, the standard-setting organization for emergency dispatch services worldwide, is the highest honor awarded to emergency communication centers. To earn this recognition, our Regional Emergency Communications Center team spends approximately six to 12 months in the accreditation process and must demonstrate strong local oversight, rigorous quality processes and a commitment to data-driven improvement. An Accredited Center of Excellence has proven a consistent performance at, or above, industry standards.

Once accredited, the focus on quality assurance practices and continuing education remains, with the IAED assessing agencies for adherence to protocols, department training and certifications, and commitments to the IAED code of conduct and ethics. Agencies must also implement active quality improvement committees. REMSA Health’s medical dispatch committees include more than 30 team members who review processes, share successes and assess areas for improvement.

Beyond the ACE requirements, REMSA Health has evaluated long-standing medical models to innovate and improve the medical 9-1-1 system; this includes ensuring all dispatchers have access to continuing education through IAED’s College of Emergency Dispatch. The ACE designation also prioritizes a patient-first culture, giving our medical dispatchers the confidence to adhere to strict standards and protocols.

Meeting the needs of a growing community and an evolving industry
The Regional Emergency Communications Center serves all medical 9-1-1 calls for Washoe County, Nevada, which totals approximately 80,000 calls for service annually. Adding to the complexity is the area’s geography and growing population. The geography of the county we serve spans more than 6,500 square miles and includes a population of nearly 475,000 people, which is expected to grow to nearly 520,000 by 2026, according to the Nevada State Demographer. Through mutual aid agreements and expanding partnerships, we continue to provide exceptional service to all callers.

To meet the needs of our growing community, REMSA Health and Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District (TMFPD) have partnered to enhance emergency services for northern Nevada. In December 2021, our Regional Emergency Communications Center combined dispatch services with TMFPD, which serves unincorporated areas of Washoe County, to reduce costs, create efficiencies and provide innovative solutions for emergency medical response. 

The public/private partnership ensures all REMSA Health dispatchers are trained in Emergency Fire Dispatch (EFD) as well as in EMD.  

Recruitment and retention of medical dispatchers is also a priority to meet the needs of our community. In addition to offering paramedic and emergency medical technician (EMT) certification programs, we provide pathways to medical dispatcher positions and career growth opportunities.

As the community grows, the 9-1-1 system must evolve with it. In Washoe County, it’s estimated that nearly 30% of the medical 9-1-1 calls received at our Regional Emergency Communications Center are for first-aid level care – things like toothaches, rashes, and sprained ankles. 

While medical dispatchers are clinically trained and ready to provide lifesaving care over the phone, they must also navigate and assist patients with accessing appropriate levels of care, which may include transferring the call to our Nurse Health Line – which is the world’s only internationally accredited Nurse Health Line co-located with an ACE medical dispatch center.

“There is no such thing as an inappropriate request,” Jerry Overton, president of the IAED says. “There is such a thing as an inappropriate response. It is our duty to remain aware of our internal process, constantly evaluating and evolving, to ensure no undue burden on those we aim to serve.”

Supporting and empowering emergency medical dispatchers

A REMSA Health medical dispatcher is one of the first voices a caller hears during a medical emergency. Ensuring they have the appropriate resources and training is an essential part of quality patient care. 

All REMSA Health medical dispatchers are certified EMTs or paramedics which gives them a unique perspective since many of them have been field providers. In addition, it enables them to act as an extension of the medical director’s license and provide instructions to patients over the phone while they await the arrival of EMTs and paramedics. Medical dispatchers have a vital role in the out-of-hospital healthcare system and are a valued source for industry leaders to look to for continuous improvement. 

Mickey Melillo, clinical standards and practices coordinator at REMSA Health’s Regional Emergency Communications Center, submitted a proposal for protocol changes to the IAED that increases the appropriate use of response resources for transformer fires. 

Many protocol changes are generated by dispatchers’ first-hand experiences and ideas. Melillo’s proposal is an outstanding example of how frontline dispatchers work with IAED to improve protocols around the world. We are proud to have our dispatchers’ enthusiasm and commitment to excellence behind every call at the Regional Emergency Communications Center.

Our commitment strengthens our community’s healthcare system

As a private, non-profit organization, and by its agreement with Washoe County to provide medical dispatch services, REMSA Health’s medical dispatch care is provided at no cost to Washoe County taxpayers.

Accreditation isn’t a simple check-the-box achievement. It takes time, intention, and successful collaboration with community partners, boards and elected officials. 

REMSA Health leaders work with our medical directors, community hospital partners, legislators, and the Washoe County District Board of Health to develop and implement protocols to ensure safe, quality care for our patient navigation model. Our supportive community partnerships make a successful and sustainable healthcare system possible.

Our medical dispatchers take their healthcare responsibility seriously. Ensuring our community’s first, first responders provide compassionate, evidence-based care and instruction for patients is essential. Additionally, it’s a commitment we are proud to dedicate ourselves to. Since 1986, REMSA has provided emergency medical services within our community and our medical dispatchers are honored to continue serving this community with high-level care for years to come.


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