Background: The benefit of the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) is not well documented. The aim of our study was to investigate the potential health benefits of HEMS, and their relation to cost of the service in a rural area in Finland. We also evaluated whether the patient benefit is due to early Advanced Life Support (ALS) procedures performed on-scene, or due to rapid transport of patients to definitive care.
Methods: We reviewed all helicopter missions during 1 year (1999). Based on given prehospital care, we divided these missions into various categories. At the time of discharge, in-hospital records were reviewed for patients who received prehospital ALS care in order to estimate the potential benefit of HEMS.
Results: There were 588 missions. In 40% (n = 233/588), the mission was aborted. ALS care was given on-scene to 206 patients. It was estimated that in this group lives of three patients (1.5%) were saved, and 42 (20%) patients, mostly with cardiovascular disease, otherwise benefited from the service. The majority (84%) of the patients benefited from on-scene ALS procedures only. The cost for beneficial mission was euro 28 444.
Conclusion: A minority of all patients did benefit from HEMS. Benefit was related to early ALS care and the cost per beneficial mission was 28 444.