A Quick Guide to Our Measures
The ATCEMS Performance Dashboard packs lots of information into a small space. Here's some information to help you get the most out of it.
Most of the measures presented on the front page of the dashboard represent multiple other indicators that can be reached by clicking on the dashboard measure tile. In some cases, the additional indicators are parts of the primary measure; for example, overall response interval performance is broken out by incident location (City of Austin or Travis County) and by incident priority. In others, the other indicators are related to the primary measure by subject matter, such as care of stroke patients or operations of the Communications Center. In either case, the indicator presented on the dashboard is the highest level or most important measure of that group.
When you open up a performance measure page, you will find most indicators shown in two places. The top of the page shows our current performance, with trend data extending back to the start of the last fiscal year. As you scroll down the page, you will find a brief explanation of each measure, and a chart showing performance trends over a longer time period – usually several years. The second view is useful for identifying patterns that may not be obvious over the shorter time periods presented at the top of the page.
Types of Measures
The dashboard contains two basic types of indicators:
Workload measures describe events that our decisions and activities cannot change, such as numbers of 911 calls, EMS system incidents, or patient contacts. We have no control over these processes. However, our planning and decision making are driven by the activities these indicators describe, so we measure them on a regular basis.
Performance measures describe processes where our decisions and activities can change the results measured by the indicator. These measures generally fall into two classifications:
- Process measures describe some aspect of our work, such as response intervals or giving aspirin to someone having a heart attack.
- Outcome measures describe the results of our work, like patient satisfaction rates or pulse return in cardiac arrest.
These measures generally will have performance goals or targets associated with them, but not always. When the measures show that we are not meeting those targets, we can change our work processes in order to improve our performance.
The dashboard measures our progress for the fiscal year, which begins on October 1 and ends on September 30 of the following year. It is divided into five categories:
Monthly Summary: These workload measures show the demands for service that we work to meet. We track counts of things like 911 calls, events requiring assistance, and patient contacts in order to make sure we have enough resources to meet current needs, and to project future requirements. These indicators are updated on a monthly basis.
Patient Care: Patient care is all about what we do to meet your medical needs. These measures look at time-sensitive conditions such as strokes and heart attacks. They tell us how quickly we can identify people with those problems, provide appropriate treatments, and get them to a hospital that specialized in treating the emergency. This category is updated quarterly.
Clinical Performance Indicators: These indicators also measure our performance caring for our patients. They come from the Office of the Medical Director, as part of its Performance Improvement program. We have published many of these measures in the past; they are now grouped together. We update them every quarter.
Operations: Operations is all about how we deliver care to the community. It starts whenever someone dials 911 looking for help, and continues through delivering the patient to the hospital. This category covers the nuts and bolts of EMS system workings – the things that you see on the news. These measures are updated every month.
Administration: Administration is what goes on in the background to keep the Department working. These are support functions that make sure that we are able to take care of you when the time comes. The measures in this category are updated every month.
Progress Symbols and Definitions
The Open Performance dashboard uses distinct symbols and terminology to describe our performance.
This symbol is used for indicators that do not have a performance goal. In these cases, the department is gathering data in order to identify trends. These measures generally are used with workload indicators; they may be used for performance indicators where it is not prudent to set a performance goal, or insufficient data exists to set a goal.
This symbol shows that we have defined a performance goal or target for an indicator, and that the our performance meets or exceeds that goal.
This symbol appears when our performance is not meeting performance expectations, but is within tolerances that we have defined. They are set using statistical analysis to account for normal variation in performance.
This symbol shows that our performance is missing goals or targets by a significant amount.
Many of the performance pages contain “Timeline Charts.” These charts allow users to zoom in or out on a line graph by clicking and dragging their mouse on the selector bar below the chart.
The section of the timeline shown in the chart corresponds to the highlighted area on the selection bar.
Keep in mind that the dates shown below the selector bar correspond to the timeline in the selector, and not to the data shown in the chart above it. Dates and values for individual data points can be viewed by hovering the tip of the mouse pointer above the data point of interest.
Performance measures are generally reported on a monthly basis. The exception is some clinical measures, which are reported quarterly. Those measures – related to strokes, heart attacks, severe injuries, and cardiac arrests – look at small groups of patients. Monthly reporting would result in populations too small to support meaningful performance evaluation; quarterly reporting solves that problem.
Monthly data will be updated by the 10th day of the new month. Quarterly data will be updated by the 10th day of the new quarter.
Geography is a significant component of many of our performance indicators. ATCEMS is a department of the City of Austin that serves Travis County under the terms of an inter-local agreement between the two governments. We also respond to incidents outside our service area when requested to provide assistance to surrounding counties. So we often use the following terms when measuring our performance.
System: System measures include all operations of the department, regardless of location. There are times when system-level measures will be limited to the City and County service area and exclude incidents outside our service area; the measure or its definition will note when that is the case.
City of Austin (aka “City” or “COA”): This covers the full purpose jurisdiction of the City of Austin, including portions of the city that extend into Williamson and Hays counties. It does not include limited purpose or extra-territorial jurisdictions of the City.
Travis County (aka “County” or “TC”): This covers areas of Travis County that fall outside the full purpose borders of the City of Austin. Limited purpose and extra-territorial jurisdictions of the City of Austin that fall within Travis County are included in this area.
Out of County/Other: This term describes areas outside the ATCEMS primary service area (i.e. the City of Austin and Travis County). This will generally be applied to requests for mutual aid, most often from Bastrop and Williamson counties. Activities in these areas are often excluded from performance measures, such as response interval compliance.
ATCEMS does not serve limited purpose jurisdictions of the City of Austin that fall within Williamson or Hays counties, so we do not report on those areas in any way. This may have implications for reporting by Council Districts, which may include some of these areas.
Accessing the Data
All data supporting our performance measures are available through the City of Austin Open Data Portal. Access to source data for each chart is available by clicking on the chart's associated “Explore the data” link. A more general description of the Department data available through Open Data can be obtained from our Open Data Catalog.
Links to Other Information
Each page contains links to other information that may be helpful. Technical definitions for each performance measure are published for each indicator. In some cases, indicator pages may have links to additional background information on topics such as strokes or heart attacks.
Thanks for taking the time to learn more about our system and how we measure what we do. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, you can contact us at EMSPerformance@austintexas.gov.