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This study was conducted to determine whether point-of-care testing, using the iSTAT Portable Clinical Analyzer, would reduce time at the referring hospital required to stabilize ventilated pediatric patients prior to interfacility, air-medical transport.
The following data were collected prospectively: (1) When a blood gas analysis was ordered; (2) If it was necessary to call in a technician; (3) Waiting time for blood to be drawn; and (4) Waiting time for results. The cost-efficacy of point-of-care testing was calculated based on: (1) Three minutes for a transport team member to draw a sample and obtain a result using the iSTAT (unit cost $CDN8,000); (2) Lab technician call-back (minimum two hours at $90); (3) Paramedic overtime (by the minute at $49/hour); and (4) Cost of charter aircraft wait time ($200 per hour) for every hour beyond four hours.
Data were collected on 46 ventilated patients over a three month period. A blood gas analysis was ordered on 35 patients. Laboratory technicians were called in for 17 (49%). For 12 (34%) patients, there was a wait for the sample to be drawn, and for 23 (66%), there was a wait for results to become available. Total time waiting to obtain laboratory gases was 526 minutes compared with a calculated 105 minutes using point-of-care testing. An iSTAT cartridge cost of $420 would not have been different from laboratory costs. Cost-saving on technician callback ($1,530), paramedic overtime ($690) and aircraft time waiting charges ($2,000) would have totaled ($4,220). From this study, the cost of point-of-care equipment could be recouped in 101 patients if aircraft charges apply or 192 patients if no aircraft costs are involved. For 11 cases, ventilator adjustments were made subsequently during transport, and for six patients, point-of-care testing, if in place, would have been used to optimize transport care.
The data from the present study indicate significant cost-efficacy from use of this technology to reduce stabilization times, and support the potential to improve quality of care during air medical interfacility transport.
Pulse-oximetry has proven clinical value in Emergency Departments and Intensive Care Units. In the prehospital environment, oxygen is given routinely in many situations. It was hypothesized that the use of pulse oximeters in the prehospital setting would provide a measurable cost-benefit by reducing the amount of oxygen used.
This was a prospective study conducted at 12 ambulance stations (average transport times >20 minutes). Standard care protocols and paramedic assessments were used to determine which patients received oxygen and the initial flow rate used. Pulse-oximetry measurements (oxygen-saturation measured by pulse oximetry) were then taken. If oxygen-saturation measured by pulse oximetry fell below 92% or rose above 96% (except in patients with chest pain), oxygen (O2) flow rates were adjusted. Costs of oxygen use were calculated: volume that would have been used based on initial flow rate; and volume actually used based on actual flow rates and transport time.
A total of 1,907 patients were recruited. Oximetry and complete data were obtained on 1,787 (94%). Of these, 1,329 (74%) received O2 by standard protocol: 389 (27.5%) had the O2 flow decreased; 52 had it discontinued. Eighty-seven patients (6%) not requiring O2 standard protocol were hypoxemic (oxygen-saturation measured by pulse oximetry < 92%) by oximetry, and 71 patients (5%) receiving oxygen required flow rate increases. Overall, O2 consumption was reduced by 26% resulting in a cost-savings of $0.20 / patient. Prehospital pulse-oximetry allows unncessary or excessive oxygen therapy to be avoided in up to 55% of patients transported by ambulance and can help to identify suboptimally oxygenated patients (11%).
Rationalizing the O2 administration using pulse-oximetry reduced O2 consumption. Other health care savings likely would result from a reduced incidence of suboptimal oxygenation. Oxygen cost-saving justifies oximeter purchase for each ambulance annually where patient volume exceeds 1,750, less frequently for lower call volumes, or in those services where the mean transport time is less than the 23 minute average noted in this study.
Following an air ambulance crash with five fatalities, critical incident stress debriefing (CISD) was provided for involved paramedics, physicians, and nurses. A study was conducted to evaluate the long-term effects of a critical incident with critical incident stress debriefing according to the Mitchell model.
Six months following the incident, empirically designed questionnaires were mailed to all transport paramedics and directly involved medical staff, and a random sample of both nurses from the dispatch/receiving institution and paramedics from around the province. Twenty-four months post-incident, all members of the transport paramedics completed the Impact of Events Scale and the General Health Questionnaires.
There were no differences between groups on any scores, except for disturbed sleep patterns, bad dreams, and the need for personal counseling being greater among transport paramedics at one day. There was no correlation between how well the deceased individuals were known, amount of debriefing, and symptom severity. A trend was seen for those with pre-existing stress management routines to have less severe symptoms at six months (p = 0.07). At two years, 16% of transport paramedics still had significant abnormal behavior.
CISD did not appear to affect the severity of stress symptoms, whereas having pre-existing stress management strategies may. These findings give justification for proceeding to a randomized, controlled trial of different levels of critical incident stress intervention.
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