Examining the association between paramedic transport to the emergency department and hospital admission: a population-based cohort study

BMC Emerg Med. 2021 Oct 12;21(1):117. doi: 10.1186/s12873-021-00507-2.


Background: Increasing hospitalization rates present unique challenges to manage limited inpatient bed capacity and services. Transport by paramedics to the emergency department (ED) may influence hospital admission decisions independent of patient need/acuity, though this relationship has not been established. We examined whether mode of transportation to the ED was independently associated with hospital admission.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study using the National Ambulatory Care Reporting System (NACRS) from April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2020 in Ontario, Canada. We included all adult patients (≥18 years) who received a triage score in the ED and presented via paramedic transport or self-referral (walk-in). Multivariable binary logistic regression was used to determine the association of mode of transportation between hospital admission, after adjusting for important patient and visit characteristics.

Results: During the study period, 21,764,640 ED visits were eligible for study inclusion. Approximately one-fifth (18.5%) of all ED visits were transported by paramedics. All-cause hospital admission incidence was greater when transported by paramedics (35.0% vs. 7.5%) and with each decreasing Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale level. Paramedic transport was independently associated with hospital admission (OR = 3.76; 95%CI = 3.74-3.77), in addition to higher medical acuity, older age, male sex, greater than two comorbidities, treatment in an urban setting and discharge diagnoses specific to the circulatory or digestive systems.

Conclusions: Transport by paramedics to an ED was independently associated with hospital admission as the disposition outcome, when compared against self-referred visits. Our findings highlight patient and visit characteristics associated with hospital admission, and can be used to inform proactive healthcare strategizing for in-patient bed management.

Keywords: Ambulance; Emergency department; Emergency medical services; Hospital admission; Hospitalization; Paramedic; Paramedicine.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Allied Health Personnel*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Hospitalization
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Ontario
  • Retrospective Studies