The Daily Patterns of Emergency Medical Events

Mary E. Helander, Margaret K. Formica, Dessa K. Bergen-Cico

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examines population-level daily patterns of time-stamped emergency medical service (EMS) dispatches to establish their situational predictability. Using visualization, sinusoidal regression, and statistical tests to compare empirical cumulative distributions, we analyzed 311,848,450 emergency medical call records from the US National Emergency Medical Services Information System (NEMSIS) for years 2010 through 2022. The analysis revealed a robust daily pattern in the hourly distribution of distress calls across 33 major categories of medical emergency dispatch types. Sinusoidal regression coefficients for all types were statistically significant, mostly at the p < 0.0001 level. The coefficient of determination (Formula presented.) ranged from 0.84 and 0.99 for all models, with most falling in the 0.94 to 0.99 range. The common sinusoidal pattern, peaking in mid-afternoon, demonstrates that all major categories of medical emergency dispatch types appear to be influenced by an underlying daily rhythm that is aligned with daylight hours and common sleep/wake cycles. A comparison of results with previous landmark studies revealed new and contrasting EMS patterns for several long-established peak occurrence hours—specifically for chest pain, heart problems, stroke, convulsions and seizures, and sudden cardiac arrest/death. Upon closer examination, we also found that heart attacks, diagnosed by paramedics in the field via 12-lead cardiac monitoring, followed the identified common daily pattern of a mid-afternoon peak, departing from prior generally accepted morning tendencies. Extended analysis revealed that the normative pattern prevailed across the NEMSIS data when reorganized to consider monthly, seasonal, daylight-savings versus civil time, and pre-/post-COVID-19 periods. The predictable daily EMS patterns provide impetus for more research that links daily variation with causal risk and protective factors. Our methods are straightforward and presented with detail to provide accessible and replicable implementation for researchers and practitioners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-99
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Biological Rhythms
Issue number1
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • 9-1-1
  • emergency medical events
  • EMS
  • population health
  • sinusoidal regression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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