Linking Emergency Medical Service Data to Death Records for Opioid Mortality Surveillance


Opioid abuse has increased exponentially in recent years throughout the United States, leading to an increase in the incidence of emergency response activities, hospitalization, and mortality related to opioid overdose. As a result, states that have been hit particularly hard during this period such as Wisconsin have allocated considerable resources to addressing this crisis via enhanced public health surveillance and outreach, procurement and administration of medical countermeasures, prescription drug monitoring programs, targeted preventive and acute treatment, first responder and hospital staff training, cross-agency collaboration, and Incident Management System activities. Central to these efforts is the identification of the primary drivers of opioid overdose and death to improve the precision and efficacy of targeted public health interventions to address the opioid crisis. The present study sought to accomplish this end by syncing rich data sources at the point of emergency response (EMS ambulance runs) to ultimate mortality outcomes (vital death records).

Objective: To identify the correlates of opioids as an underlying cause of death by linking coroner/medical examiner vital death records with emergency medical service (EMS) ambulance run data. By combining death data to EMS ambulance runs, the goal was to determine characteristics of the emergency response particularly for opioid overdose events that may connect to increased mortality.

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Original Publication Year: 
Event/Publication Date: 
January, 2019

June 18, 2019

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