Improvements in Patient Acceptance by Hospitals Following the Introduction of a Smartphone App for the Emergency Medical Service System: A Population-Based Before-and-After Observational Study in Osaka...

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Publication Date: 
Sep 12, 2017

BACKGROUND: Recently, the number of ambulance dispatches has been increasing in Japan, and it is therefore difficult for hospitals to accept emergency patients smoothly and appropriately because of the limited hospital capacity. To facilitate the process of requesting patient transport and hospital acceptance, an emergency information system using information technology (IT) has been built and introduced in various communities. However, its effectiveness has not been thoroughly revealed. We introduced a smartphone app system in 2013 that enables emergency medical service (EMS) personnel to share information among themselves regarding on-scene ambulances and the hospital situation.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to assess the effects of introducing this smartphone app on the EMS system in Osaka City, Japan.

METHODS: This retrospective study analyzed the population-based ambulance records of Osaka Municipal Fire Department. The study period was 6 years, from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2015. We enrolled emergency patients for whom on-scene EMS personnel conducted hospital selection. The main endpoint was the difficulty experienced in gaining hospital acceptance at the scene. The definition of difficulty was making ≥5 phone calls by EMS personnel at the scene to hospitals until a decision to transport was determined. The smartphone app was introduced in January 2013, and we compared the patients treated from 2010 to 2012 (control group) with those treated from 2013 to 2015 (smartphone app group) using an interrupted time-series analysis to assess the effects of introducing this smartphone app.

RESULTS: A total of 600,526 emergency patients for whom EMS personnel selected hospitals were eligible for our analysis. There were 300,131 emergency patients in the control group (50.00%, 300,313/600,526) from 2010 to 2012 and 300,395 emergency patients in the smartphone app group (50.00%, 300,395/600,526) from 2013 to 2015. The rate of difficulty in hospital acceptance was 14.19% (42,585/300,131) in the control group and 10.93% (32,819/300,395) in the smartphone app group. No change over time in the number of difficulties in hospital acceptance was found before the introduction of the smartphone app (regression coefficient: -2.43, 95% CI -5.49 to 0.64), but after its introduction, the number of difficulties in hospital acceptance gradually decreased by month (regression coefficient: -11.61, 95% CI -14.57 to -8.65).

CONCLUSIONS: Sharing information between an ambulance and a hospital by using the smartphone app at the scene was associated with decreased difficulty in obtaining hospital acceptance. Our app and findings may be worth considering in other areas of the world where emergency medical information systems with IT are needed.