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Hegenberg, Kathrin; Trentzsch, Heiko; Gross, Stefan; Prückner, Stephan (2019): Use of pre-hospital emergency medical services in urban and rural municipalities over a 10 year period: an observational study based on routinely collected dispatch data. In: Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine 27
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Abstract

Background Pre-hospital emergency medical services (EMS) are an integral part of emergency medical care. EMS planning can be achieved by analyzing patterns of use. However, long-term time trends of EMS use have rarely been studied. The objective of this retrospective study was to investigate utilization patterns over a ten year period, and to compare utilization trends between urban and rural municipalities and between events with and without prehospital emergency physician (PEP) dispatch. Methods Routine data collected by 26 dispatch centers in the federal state of Bavaria, Germany, from 2007 to 2016 was analyzed. Emergency locations were classified into five levels of rurality. Negative binomial mixed effects regression models were fitted to predict emergency rates and to investigate differences in rates and utilization trends. Graphical representation methods were used to compare distribution of transport rates and distribution across daytime and weekday. Results Twelve million two hundred thousand one hundred fifty-five dispatches assigned to 7,725,636 single emergencies were included. The mean number of emergencies per year and 1000 population (emergency rate) was 42.8 (±16.0) in rural municipalities and 80.7 (±9.3) in large cities. Compared to rural municipalities, cities had higher emergency rates without (IRR = 3.0, CI 2.2–4.0) and with pre-hospital physicians (IRR = 1.5, CI 1.2–2.0). Between 2007 and 2016, the absolute number of emergencies increased by 49.1%. Estimated annual percent change of emergency rates without physician activation ranged from 5.7% (CI 4.3–7.1) in cities to 7.8% (CI 7.6–7.9) in rural areas. Changes in emergency rates with physician attendance were lower, with estimated increases between 1.3 and 2.4%. The average proportion of patients transported to a hospital was lower in cities and remained unchanged. There were no considerable differences or changes in the distribution across daytime and weekdays. Conclusion Differences between cities and other areas suggest that the planning of EMS should be targeted to regional characteristics. A substantial increase in emergency rates was observed across all areas of Bavaria, but did not impact transport rates or temporal distributions. Further research is needed to better understand the urgency of emergency events and reasons behind increasing EMS utilization.