Efficient communication between (helicopter) emergency medical services ((H)EMS) and healthcare professionals in the emergency department (ED) is essential to facilitate appropriate team mobilization and preparation for critically ill patients. A correct estimated time of arrival (ETA) is crucial for patient safety and time-management since all team members have to be present, but needless waiting must be avoided. The aim of this study is to investigate the quality of the pre-announcement and the accuracy of the ETA.
A prospective observational study was conducted in potentially critically ill/injured patients transported to the ED of a Level I trauma center by the (H)EMS. Research assistants observed time slots prior to arrival at the ED and during the initial assessment, using a stopwatch and an observation form. Information on the pre-announcement (including mechanisms of injury, vital signs, and the ETA) is also collected.
One hundred and ninety-three critically ill/injured patients were included. Information in the pre-announcement was often incomplete; in particular vital signs (86%). Forty percent of the announced critically ill patients were non-critical at arrival in the ED. The observed time of arrival (OTA) for 66% of the patients was later than the provided ETA (median 5:15 min) and 19% of the patients arrived sooner (3:10 min). Team completeness prior to the arrival of the patient was achieved for 66% of the patients.
The quality of the pre-announcement is moderate, sometimes lacking essential information on vital signs. Forty percent of the critically ill patients turned out to be non-critical at the ED. Furthermore, the ETA was regularly inaccurate and team completeness was insufficient. However, none of the above was correlated to the rate of complications, mortality, LOS, ward of admission or discharge location.