Objective: The objectives this study are to elucidate the advantages and disadvantages of the panel method for evaluating the quality of trauma care and to review the individual and collective evidence in support of regionalized trauma care derived from these studies.
Method: A review of the published literature was conducted and identified 10 panel studies that compared appropriateness of care and/or the preventability of deaths occurring either across hospitals in a trauma system versus non-trauma system, in a defined region before and after implementation of a trauma system, between trauma center and non-trauma center hospitals within a defined region, or across hospitals of varying levels of care presystem.
Results: Panel studies vary widely in the approaches used to elicit judgments; low rates of inter-rater reliability have been reported. The strength of the evidence derived from panel studies in support of trauma system effectiveness must be reviewed in this context.
Conclusion: All panel studies are classified as providing weak, Class III evidence. Yet, collectively they provide some face validity in support of the hypothesis that treatment at a trauma versus non-trauma center may be associated with less inappropriate care and fewer preventable deaths among the seriously injured.