Background: In Scandinavia, scattered populations and challenging geographical and climatic conditions necessitate highly advanced medical treatment by qualified pre-hospital services. Just like every other part of the health care system, the specialized pre-hospital EMS should aim to optimize its resource use, and critically review as well as continuously assess the quality of its practices. This study aims to provide a comprehensive profile of the pre-hospital, physician-manned EMS in the Scandinavian countries.
Methods: The study was designed as a web-based cross-sectional survey. All specialized pre-hospital, physician-manned services in Scandinavia were invited, and data concerning organization, qualification and medical activity in 2007 were mapped.
Results: Of the 41 invited services, 37 responded, which corresponds to a response rate of 90% (Finland 86%, Sweden 83%, Denmark 92%, Norway 94%). Organization and education are basically identical. All services provide advanced life support and have short response intervals. Services take care of a variety of patient groups, and skills are needed not only in procedures, but also in diagnostics, logistics, intensive care, and mass-casualty management. Consistent and detailed medical documentation was often lacking, however. Differences are mainly related to time variables, patient volume, and service area. The Danish and Swedish services have higher volumes of patient care encounters while the Finnish and Norwegian ones provide a wider variety of medical services.
Conclusions: This survey documented several significant similarities among pre-hospital physician-staffed EMS systems in Scandinavia. Although medical data registration is currently under-developed, Scandinavian physician-manned EMS is a feasible arena for future multi-centre research.
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