Realistic assessment of the physician-staffed emergency services in Germany

Anaesthesist. 2006 Oct;55(10):1080-6. doi: 10.1007/s00101-006-1051-2.


In Germany the emergency medical services, which include dispatching emergency physicians to the scene, are considered to be among the best in the world. However, the hospitals admitting these patients still report shortcomings in prehospital care. The quality of an emergency medical service depends on both formal qualification and experience in managing such emergencies. Therefore, we determined how frequently emergency medical service physicians in Germany actually encountered complex and demanding emergency situations outside the hospital and how often they had to carry out emergency interventions. We therefore evaluated data from more than 82,000 ground emergency medical service scene calls registered in the MIND ("minimaler Notarztdatensatz") data base of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany and more than 47,000 helicopter emergency medical service scene calls from the "Luftrettungs-, Informations- und Kommunikationssystem" (LIKS) data base of the German ADAC air rescue service. The results, which were unexpectedly distinct, impressively demonstrate that in part emergency medical service staff only encountered some emergencies very rarely. In particular, patients with life-threatening conditions such as acute coronary syndrome, stroke, head trauma, as well as multiple trauma were only treated once every 0.4-14.5 months and cardiopulmonary resuscitation and intubation were only carried out once every 0.5-1.5 months. Furthermore, a time period of 6 months to more than 6 years may pass before a chest tube has to be placed. There are, of course, considerable differences between ground and helicopter emergency medical services. Particularly in areas where the frequency of such emergency cases is low, the clinical experience required to competently manage a demanding emergency situation cannot be gained or maintained just by working in the emergency medical system. As a result of the general pressure to cut costs and also of changes in hospital politics, however, only highly qualified and experienced emergency medical services may survive in Germany in the long term. In addition to formal qualifications and accompanying practice-related courses, future emergency medical service personnel should be drafted from clinical department staff that are experienced in treating severely ill and severely injured patients.

MeSH terms

  • Air Ambulances
  • Coronary Disease / therapy
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / therapy
  • Databases, Factual
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Medicine / trends
  • Germany
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Multiple Trauma / therapy
  • Physicians*
  • Stroke / therapy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workforce