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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Accuracy of Perceived Estimated Travel Time by EMS to a Trauma Center in San Bernardino County, California


Introduction: Mobilization of trauma resources has the potential to cause ripple effects throughout hospital operations. One major factor affecting efficient utilization of trauma resources is a discrepancy between the prehospital estimated time of arrival (ETA) as communicated by emergency medical services (EMS) personnel and their actual time of arrival (TOA). The current study aimed to assess the accuracy of the perceived prehospital estimated arrival time by EMS personnel in comparison to their actual arrival time at a Level II trauma center in San Bernardino County, California.

Methods: This retrospective study included traumas classified as alerts or activations that were transported to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in 2013. We obtained estimated arrival time and actual arrival time for each transport from the Surgery Department Trauma Registry. The difference between the median of ETA and actual TOA by EMS crews to the trauma center was calculated for these transports. Additional variables assessed included time of day and month during which the transport took place.

Results: A total of 2,454 patients classified as traumas were identified in the Surgery Department Trauma Registry. After exclusion of trauma consults, walk-ins, handoffs between agencies, downgraded traumas, traumas missing information, and traumas transported by agencies other than American Medical Response, Ontario Fire, Rialto Fire or San Bernardino County Fire, we included a final sample size of 555 alert and activation classified traumas in the final analysis. When combining all transports by the included EMS agencies, the median of the ETA was 10 minutes and the median of the actual TOA was 22 minutes (median of difference=9 minutes, p<0.0001). Furthermore, when comparing the difference between trauma alerts and activations, trauma activations demonstrated an equal or larger difference in the median of the estimated and actual time of arrival (p<0.0001). We also found month and time of day to be associated with variability in the difference between the median of the estimated andactual arrival time (p=0.0082 and p=0.0005 for month and time of the day, respectively).

Conclusion: EMS personnel underestimate their travel time by a median of nine minutes, which may cause the trauma team to abandon other important activities in order to respond to the emergency department prematurely. The discrepancy between ETA and TOA is unpredictable, varying by month and time of day. As such, a better method of estimating patient arrival time is needed.

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