The number of calls to 911 dropped sharply in 2016, according to the National Association of EMS Providers, and calls to ambulance companies are declining because of a spike in emergency-room visits.
But the decline in calls is just one indicator that calls to emergency medical services are declining in the country, said Richard Piedmont, a spokesman for the National Safety Council, a nonprofit organization that advocates for EMS providers.
The number and frequency of emergency calls to EMS providers is down, too.
The average number of emergency medical calls per capita dropped from 3,611 in 2016 to 3,554 in 2017.
But ambulance services are reporting a slight increase in the number of their patients calling them, Piedmund said.
While there is some concern that the drop in emergency calls will hurt the EMS industry, Priedmont said that was not the case in 2016.
“This year we have been able to see that ambulance service is doing much better than it did in 2016,” he said.
“Our goal is to make sure that we’re delivering the best service to our patients.”
In 2016, about 12,700 emergency-medical calls were made to the emergency departments of people with injuries, but by 2017, that number was down to 4,812.
There are more than 20 million calls to the EMS services in the United States each year.
The most common causes of EMS calls are injuries, such as falls, fractures or heart attacks, said Piedmonte.
Emergency-room patients are less likely to be hurt or die because paramedics arrive quickly to treat them, and they are not waiting outside for hours.
And EMS providers are able to take patients from one hospital to another with less disruption than an ambulance, he said, so people can be transported home.
“It’s a better use of resources,” he added.
Emergency medical services were among the first to respond to the opioid crisis in 2015.
In 2016 and 2017, about two-thirds of people who were hospitalized with a prescription opioid, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were treated in the ER.
More than 60,000 people died of prescription opioids in 2016 and nearly 80,000 died of heroin and other illicit opioids in 2017, according a CNN analysis.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that about 20 percent of the country’s Medicaid patients have prescriptions for opioids, including heroin and painkillers.
The American Medical Association says that more than 70 percent of people seeking care in emergency departments are opioid users.
The opioid crisis has created a massive demand for more doctors and hospitals to accommodate the influx of patients, Piesmont said.
The increase in emergency department visits, though, is a positive sign, Priesmont said, because the demand for care is increasing.
“When you have a crisis like this, we see a surge in demand for medical services,” he explained.
“We’re seeing a lot more people needing care.
We’re seeing that emergency-physician-patient ratios are rising.”
Piedmo also pointed out that a lot of emergency-related hospitalizations are for emergency-department-type conditions, such the chest infection, which is not a primary reason to treat an individual.
“If you’re looking for a general patient, that’s not the reason,” he noted.
“You can go into a general hospital and be treated for a chest infection.”
But in 2016 the number and severity of opioid overdoses increased dramatically, causing some people to seek treatment in an ED rather than the ER, PIEDMONT said.
In 2017, more than 6,000 emergency-patient deaths were attributed to prescription opioids, and another 11,000 were attributed directly to heroin and fentanyl.
While it’s difficult to determine what causes the spike in overdoses, experts say the increased demand for ER care is the likely culprit.
“I don’t think that there is a single factor that explains it, but I think we’re seeing the effects of a lot on the ER system,” Piedmonsaid.
The CDC also noted that a large number of people are dying from overdoses at the hands of heroin or other opioids.
There were nearly 6,300 opioid-related deaths in 2016; that number rose to 8,800 in 2017 and 9,300 in 2018.
In 2018, there were almost 6,800 opioid-induced deaths in the U.S., including more than 5,000 deaths in California, which has one of the highest rates of overdose deaths.
“That’s a lot,” said Priesmon, who added that the number would likely have increased even without the opioid epidemic.
The National Emergency Medical Services Association says there are about 5.2 million emergency medical personnel in the nation.
It also says that of those 5.8 million people, about 6,500 are physicians, 6,400 are paramedics, and more than 3,300 are other emergency medical technicians.
In a statement, the organization said that emergency medicine is the “first line of defense” for