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The Accuracy of Emergency Medical Dispatcher-Assisted Layperson-Caller Pulse Check Using the Medical Priority Dispatch System Protocol

  • Greg Scott (a1), Jeff Clawson (a1), Mark Rector (a1), Dave Massengale (a1), Mike Thompson (a1), Brett Patterson (a1) and Christopher H.O. Olola (a1)...



Knowing the pulse rate of a patient in a medical emergency can help to determine patient acuity and the level of medical care required. Little evidence exists regarding the ability of a 911 layperson-caller to accurately determine a conscious patient's pulse rate.


The hypothesis of this study was that, when instructed by a trained emergency medical dispatcher (EMD) using the scripted Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS) protocol Pulse Check Diagnostic Tool (PCDxT), a layperson-caller can detect a carotid pulse and accurately determine the pulse rate in a conscious person.


This non-randomized and non-controlled prospective study was conducted at three different public locations in the state of Utah (USA). A healthy, mock patient's pulse rate was obtained using an electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor. Layperson-callers, in turn, initiated a simulated 911 phone call to an EMD call-taker who provided instructions for determining the pulse rate of the patient. Layperson accuracy was assessed using correlations between the layperson-caller's finding and the ECG reading.


Two hundred sixty-eight layperson-callers participated; 248 (92.5%) found the pulse of the mock patient. There was a high correlation between pulse rates obtained using the ECG monitor and those found by the layperson-callers, overall (94.6%, P < .001), and by site, gender, and age.


Layperson-callers, when provided with expert, scripted instructions by a trained 911 dispatcher over the phone, can accurately determine the pulse rate of a conscious and healthy person. Improvements to the 911 instructions may further increase layperson accuracy.

Scott G, Clawson J, Rector M, Massengale D, Thompson M, Patterson B, Olola CHO. The accuracy of emergency medical dispatcher-assisted layperson-caller pulse check using the Medical Priority Dispatch System protocol. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2012;27(3):1-8.


Corresponding author

Correspondence: Greg Scott, MBA International Academies of Emergency Dispatch 139 East South Temple, Suite 200 Salt Lake City, Utah 84111 USA E-mail


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