A model for rural trauma care

Br J Surg. 2012 Mar;99(3):309-14. doi: 10.1002/bjs.7734. Epub 2012 Jan 4.


Background: In the United States and many other countries, there has been limited attempt to develop a trauma system that addresses the unique trauma situations that occur in rural areas. Rather the planners have attempted to simply extend the urban based trauma system into rural communities. This extension does not address the needs of the majority of patients who are injured in rural communities.

Methods: A review of the types of patients seen in the rural communities, the volume of these patients and the destination protocols used in the rural communities as taught by the ACS/ATLS and the implications of the CDC Guidelines for Field Triage of Injured Patients Recommendations of the National Expert Panel on Field Triage were reviewed, assessed and compared to the needs in the rural areas for a rural trauma system. In addition, a quality assessment tool was used from a major trauma centre whereby the frequency of patients transported to the centre that were inappropriate for the trauma centre was indicated by the volume that were discharged in 6 h.

Results: Most of the patients injured in the rural communities can be treated in the critical access and rural hospital (> 90 per cent) and can be provided with good care without the need for emergency medical service (EMS) transportation long distances to the trauma centre, inappropriate use of air EMS vehicles thus circumventing families having to travel long distances to see patients, incurring expense and inconvenience, and avoiding loss of revenue to the local hospitals and the overload of urban trauma centres. Rather triage criteria can be taught as per the EMS systems, training given to rural hospital personnel, hospital administrators instructed as to the benefit of such a system, citizens educated as to the advantage of keeping their loved ones closer to home and trauma system registries used to enhance the correct use of the trauma system.

Conclusion: Only 5-10 per cent of trauma injuries require the resources of a trauma centre. Proper triage and medical provider education can be used for the benefit of the patient, the EMS system, the rural and urban hospital, and proper quality assurance to assure that the 'right patient is treated at the right hospital at the right time', for the benefit of the patient.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence / standards
  • Emergency Medical Services / organization & administration*
  • Emergency Medical Services / standards
  • Emergency Medicine / education
  • Health Facility Size
  • Hospitals, Rural / organization & administration
  • Hospitals, Rural / standards
  • Humans
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / education
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Referral and Consultation / organization & administration
  • Rural Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Rural Health Services / standards
  • Transportation of Patients / organization & administration
  • Triage / organization & administration
  • Workload
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy*