Emergency Medical Services Bypass of the Closest Facility for Pediatric Patients
Methods: This is a one-year retrospective study of non-trauma pediatric patients less than 18 years of age transported by three EMS agencies (Baltimore City, Prince George’s County, and Queen Anne’s County) in 2016. A priori, a bypass was defined as transport to a facility more than 2 km farther than the distance to the closest facility. We calculated rates of bypass and categorized destination and closest facilities by their pediatric service availability using publicly available information. EMS transport distance and time were also compared for bypass and closest facility patients.
Results: The three EMS agencies in 2016 transported a total of 12,258 non-trauma pediatric patients, of whom 11,945 (97%) were successfully geocoded. Overall 43% (n = 5,087) of patients bypassed the nearest facility, of which 87% (n = 4,439) were transported to a facility with higher-level pediatric care than the closest facility. Both bypass rates and destination facility pediatric levels differed between agencies. Bypasses had significantly longer transport times and distances as compared to closest facility transports (p < 0.001). For non-trauma pediatric bypasses alone, an additional 41,494 kilometers traveled, and 979 hours of EMS transport time was attributable to bypassing the closest facility.
Conclusions: This study reveals a high rate of pediatric bypass for non-trauma patients in three diverse EMS agencies. Bypass results in increased EMS resource utilization through longer transport time and distance. For non-trauma pediatric patients for whom there is little destination guidance, further work is required to determine bypass’ effects on patient outcomes.
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