Emergency physicians as human billboards for injury prevention: a randomized controlled trial

CJEM. 2017 Jul;19(4):277-284. doi: 10.1017/cem.2016.366. Epub 2016 Sep 15.


Objectives: The objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of a novel injury prevention intervention designed to prompt patients to initiate an injury prevention discussion with the ED physician, thus enabling injury prevention counselling and increasing bicycle helmet use among patients.

Methods: A repeated measures 2 x 3 randomized controlled trial design was used. Fourteen emergency physicians were observed for two shifts each between June and August 2013. Each pair of shifts was randomized to either an injury prevention shift, during which the emergency physician would wear a customized scrub top, or a control shift. The outcomes of interest were physician time spent discussing injury prevention, current helmet use, and self-reported change in helmet use rates at one year. Logistic regression analyses were used to examine the impact of the intervention.

Results: The average time spent on injury prevention for all patients was 3.3 seconds. For those patients who actually received counselling, the average time spent was 17.0 seconds. The scrub top intervention did not significantly change helmet use rates at one year. The intervention also had no significant impact on patient decisions to change or reinforcement of helmet use.

Conclusions: Our study showed that the intervention did not increase physician injury prevention counselling or self-reported bicycle helmet use rates among patients. Given the study limitations, replication and extension of the intervention is warranted.

Keywords: emergency; helmet; injury prevention; randomized controlled trial.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bicycling / injuries*
  • Child
  • Clothing*
  • Counseling
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / prevention & control*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Head Protective Devices / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Saskatchewan