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A Retrospective Geospatial Simulation Study of Helicopter Emergency Medical Services' Potential Time Benefit Over Ground Ambulance Transport in Northern South Africa.
Division of Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.
School of Medical Sciences, Ӧrebro University, Ӧrebro, Sweden.
Örebro University, School of Medical Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3290-4111
2023 (English)In: Air Medical Journal, ISSN 1067-991X, E-ISSN 1532-6497, Vol. 42, no 6, p. 440-444Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

OBJECTIVE: One of the most important benefits of helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) is a time benefit, either through expedited access to the casualty or a reduction in the transport time to definitive care. However, HEMS utilization does not come without risk to the public and crew or at an insignificant cost. Cost is an essential consideration for health policy decisions, especially in low- to middle-income countries, such as South Africa. The aim of this study was to determine whether there is a time benefit of HEMS dispatch in South Africa compared with simulated driving time. A secondary aim was to determine the distance from the incident site to the hospital at which a time benefit can be guaranteed.

METHODS: A retrospective study was undertaken by comparing the prehospital times of patients who underwent HEMS transportation with simulated ground emergency medical services (GEMS) transportation times. Handwritten patient records of actual flights were reviewed and analyzed. The actual flight times recorded were used to calculate the helicopter transport time, activation to scene time, scene time, and scene to hospital time. Times were assigned based on a nonsimultaneous dispatch model, as is used in South Africa. For each helicopter mission, Google Maps (Google Inc, Mountain View, CA) was used to simulate the fastest ground route from the same location of the incident to the same receiving hospital corrected for typical traffic trends. The actual HEMS and simulated GEMS times were compared using the paired t-test. Linear regression analysis was performed to determine a minimum driving distance at which HEMS provides a time benefit.

RESULTS: A total of 118 HEMS transports were analyzed, the majority of which were trauma related (n = 115, 97%). HEMS transport resulted in a mean time deficit of -15 minutes (95% confidence interval, -18 to -11; P < .05) compared with simulated GEMS drive times. After regression, HEMS transport provides a time benefit at a driving distance greater than 119 km.

CONCLUSION: The current study demonstrated that there was rarely a time benefit for actual primary emergency responses when HEMS was used compared with simulated driving time of GEMS transport. Using a nonsimultaneous dispatch model, a time benefit only occurs when the driving distance from the incident site to the hospital is greater than 119 km. There is an urgent need to critically evaluate HEMS utilization in the South African context.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2023. Vol. 42, no 6, p. 440-444
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-110966DOI: 10.1016/j.amj.2023.07.005PubMedID: 37996179Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85166942514OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-110966DiVA, id: diva2:1830409
Available from: 2024-01-23 Created: 2024-01-23 Last updated: 2024-03-06Bibliographically approved

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