The appropriateness of low-acuity cases referred for emergency ambulance dispatch following ambulance service secondary telephone triage: A retrospective cohort study

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Abstract

Objective Ambulance-based secondary telephone triage systems have been established in ambulance services to divert low-acuity cases away from emergency ambulance dispatch. However, some low-acuity cases still receive an emergency ambulance dispatch following secondary triage. To date, no evidence exists identifying whether these cases required an emergency ambulance. The aim of this study was to investigate whether cases were appropriately referred for emergency ambulance dispatch following secondary telephone triage. Methods A retrospective cohort analysis was conducted of cases referred for emergency ambulance dispatch in Melbourne, Australia following secondary telephone triage between September 2009 and June 2012. Appropriateness was measured by assessing the frequency of advanced life support (ALS) treatment by paramedics, and paramedic transport to hospital. Results There were 23,696 cases included in this study. Overall, 54% of cases received paramedic treatment, which was similar to the state-wide rate for emergency ambulance cases (55.5%). All secondary telephone triage cases referred for emergency ambulance dispatch had transportation rates higher than all metropolitan emergency ambulance cases (82.2% versus 71.1%). Two-thirds of the cases that were transported were also treated by paramedics (66.5%), and 17.7% of cases were not transported to hospital by ambulance following paramedic assessment. Conclusions Overall, the cases returned for emergency ambulance dispatch following secondary telephone triage were appropriate. Nevertheless, the paramedic treatment rates in particular indicate a considerable rate of overtriage requiring further investigation to optimize the efficacy of secondary telephone triage.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0221158
Number of pages11
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume14
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2019

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