Do Response Times Matter? The Impact of EMS Response Times on Health Outcomes


The introduction of technology aimed at reducing the response times of emergency medical services has
been one of the principal innovations in crisis care over the last several decades. These substantial
investments have typically been justified by an assumed link between shorter response times and
improved health outcomes. But, current medical research does not actually show a significant relationship
between response time and mortality. In this study, I explain the discrepancy between conventional
wisdom and current medical research; existing research fails to account for the endogeneity of incident
severity and response time. Analyzing detailed call-level information from the state of Utah's Bureau of
Emergency Medical Services, I measure the impact of response time on mortality and hospital utilization
using the distance of the incident from the nearest EMS agency headquarters as an instrument for
response time. I find that response times significantly affect mortality, but not hospital utilization. A cost
benefit analysis suggests that the anticipated benefits of a response time reduction exceed the costs and I
discuss free-rider problems that might be responsible for the inefficiently high response times I observe.

Year of Publication
Date Published
Publication Language
Citation Key
Working Papers