Purpose: Patient transportation is an important component of health-care delivery; however, the quality and safety issues relating to non-emergency patient transport services have rarely been discussed compared with the transport of emergency patients. This systematic review examines the factors associated with the quality and safety of non-emergency transport services.
Data sources: Medline, Pre-Medline, CINAHL and Embase databases were searched for publications between 1990 and September 2009.
Study selection: Articles investigating non-emergency hospital transport services.
Data extraction: Study characteristic and outcome data were abstracted by one author and reviewed by a second and third author.
Results: Twelve articles from seven countries were included. Five studies examined issues relating to the structure of transport services, which focused on the use of policies and protocols to assist the transfer process. All studies addressed factors associated with the transfer process such as communication, appropriateness of personnel, time to arrange transfers, and the safety and efficiency of the process. Outcomes were measured in one study.
Conclusions: Communication, efficiency and appropriateness are key factors that are advanced as impacting on the quality and safety of non-emergency transport services. Standardization of the non-emergency transport process shows promise in reducing risk and increasing efficiency. Applying information and communication technology to improve the quality of transport services has received little attention despite its potential benefits. Patient outcomes in relation to quality and safety of transport services are rarely measured. Available evidence suggests that safety of non-emergency patient transfers is sometimes compromised due to poor standardization and failures in communication processes.