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Population density can limit the level of care that can be provided in local facilities in Ontario, and as such, patients with severe illnesses often require interfacility transfers to access specialized care. This study aimed to identify causes of delay in interfacility transport by air ambulance in Ontario.
Causes of delay were identified by manual review of electronic patient care records (ePCRs). All emergent interfacility transfers conducted by Ornge, the sole provider of air-based medical transport in Ontario, between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016 were included. The ePCRs were reviewed if they met one or more of the following: (1) contained a standardized delay code; (2) contained free text including “delay”, “wait”, or “duty-out”; (3) were above the 75th percentile in total transport time; or (4) were above the 90th percentile in time to bedside, time at the sending hospital, or time to receiving facility.
Our search strategy identified 1,220 ePCRs for manual review, which identified a total of 872 delays. Common delays cited included aircraft refueling (234 delays), waiting for land emergency medical service (EMS) escort (146), and staffing- or dispatch-related issues (124). Other delays included weather/environmental hazards (43); mechanical issues (36); and procedures, imaging, or stabilization (80).
Some common causes of interfacility delay are potentially modifiable: better trip planning around refueling and improved coordination with local EMS, could reduce delays experienced during interfacility trips. To better understand causes of delay, we would benefit from improved documentation and record availability which limited the results in this study.
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