Objective. Using hospital outcomes, this study evaluated emergency medical technicians' (EMTs') ability to safely apply protocols to assign transport options. Methods. Protocols were developed that categorized patients as: 1) needs ambulance; 2) may go to emergency department (ED) by alternative means; 3) contact primary care provider (PCP); or 4) treat and release. After education on application of the protocols, EMTs categorized patients at the scene prior to transport but did not change current practice. Hospital charts were reviewed to determine outcome of patients whom EMTs categorized as not needing an ambulance. Category 2 patients were assumed to need the ambulance if they were admitted to a monitored bed or intensive care unit. Category 3 and 4 patients were assumed to need the ED if they were admitted. Results. The EMTs categorized 1,300 study patients: 1,023 (79%) ambulance transport, 200 (15%) alternative means, 63 (5%) contact PCP, and 14 (1%) treat and release. Hospital data were obtained for 140 (51%) patients categorized as not needing ambulance transport. Thirteen of 140 (9%) patients who transporting EMTs determined did not need the ambulance were considered to be undertriaged: five in category 2, six in category 3, and one in category 4. Six of 13 (46%) undertriaged patients had dementia or a psychiatric disorder as one of their presenting complaints. Conclusion. These protocols led to a 9% undertriage rate. Patients with psychiatric complaints and dementia were at high risk for undertriage.
- Emergency medical technicians
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Emergency Medicine