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Which emergency medical dispatch codes predict high prehospital nontransport rates in an urban community?



The Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS) is a commonly used computer-based emergency medical dispatch (EMD) system that is widely used to prioritize 9-1-1 calls and optimize resource allocation. There are five major priority classes used to dispatch 9-1-1 calls in the San Francisco System; Alpha codes are the lowest priority (lowest expected acuity) and Echo are the highest priority.


We sought to determine which MPDS dispatch codes are associated with high prehospital nontransport rates (NTRs).


All unique MPDS call categories from 2009 in a highly urbanized, two-tier advanced life support (ALS) system were sorted according to highest NTRs. There are many reasons for nontransport, such as "gone on arrival," and "patient denied transport." Those categories with greater than 100 annual calls were further evaluated. MPDS groups that included multiple categories with NTRs exceeding 25% were then identified and each category was analyzed. Results. EMS responded to a total of 81,437 calls in 2009, of which 18,851 were not transported by EMS. The majority of the NTRs were found among "cardiac/ respiratory arrest/death," "assault/sexual assaults," "unknown problem/man down," "traffic/transportation accidents," and "unconscious/fainting." "Cardiac or respiratory arrest/death -obvious death" (9B1) had the highest overall nontransport rate, 99.25% (1/134), most likely due to declaration of death. "Unknown problem -man down -medical alert notification" had the second highest NTR, 67.22% (138/421). However, Echo priority codes had the highest overall nontransport rates (45.45%) and Charlie had the lowest (13.84%).


The nontransport rates of individual MPDS categories vary considerably and should be considered in any system design. We identified 52 unique call categories to have a 25% or greater NTR, 18 of which exceeded 40%. The majority of NTRs occurred among the "cardiac/respiratory arrest/death," "assault/sexual assaults," "unknown problem/man down," "traffic/transportation accidents," and "unconscious/fainting" categories. The higher the priority code within each subset (AB vs. CDE), the less likely the patient was to be transported. Charlie priority codes had a lower NTR than Delta, and Delta was lower than Echo. Charlie codes were therefore the strongest predictors of hospital transport, while Echo codes (highest priority) were those with the highest nontransport rates and were the worst predictors of hospital transport in the emergent subset.

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