Study objectives: To document the existence and nature of variation in times to trauma care between urban and rural locations; to assess the impact of identified variations on outcome.
Design: Retrospective case review.
Setting: Washington state, 1986.
Participants: Motor-vehicle-collision fatalities.
Methods: Previously unreported definitions of urban and rural location and possibly preventable death were used to conduct a comparative analysis of urban and rural fatalities. Trauma care times in the prehospital and the emergency department (ED) phases of care were abstracted. Their relationships to corresponding crude death rates and possibly preventable death rates also were examined.
Results: Prehospital times averaged two times longer in rural locations than in urban areas. Fist-physician contact in the ED averaged six times longer in rural locations than in urban settings. Concomitantly, the crude death rate in rural settings was three times that of the urban areas. The overall possibly preventable death rate was double the urban rates in rural incidents. When stratified by phase of care, rate of possibly preventable death showed no urban/rural variation for the prehospital phase, but was three times greater for the ED phase in rural areas than in urban ones.
Conclusions: Trauma care times and adverse outcome appear to be associated. Allocation of resources to decrease length of and geographic variation in time to definitive care, particularly in the ED phase, seems appropriate.