Pattern of basic life support ambulance use in an urban pediatric population

Am J Emerg Med. 1996 May;14(3):250-3. doi: 10.1016/S0735-6757(96)90168-0.


To evaluate the pattern of use of basic life support (BLS) ambulances in a pediatric population, emergency medical service (EMS) and pediatric emergency department (PED) records from an urban hospital PED for all children transported to PED by ambulance during a 1-month study period were retrospectively reviewed. Excluded were: (1) advanced life support transport, (2) transport from other medical facility, (3) patients with chronic medical disability without acute decompensation, and (4) patients in police custody. BLS transport was considered inappropriate if: (1) no intervention by BLS technicians, (2) minimal to no intervention in the PED, and (3) discharge without prescription medication. Of 376 ambulance transports evaluated, 238 (63%) met entry criteria, and 105 (44%) transports met criteria for being inappropriate. The mean charge for appropriate transport was $240.68, and for inappropriate, $237.12 (P = .2). The total charge for inappropriate transports was $26,523.20. Patients on federal assistance had a significantly higher rate of inappropriate transport (51%) compared with patients who had commercial insurance (30%) and those who self paid (42%). Trauma was the most common cause for transport, 48% of which was inappropriate. It was concluded that inappropriate BLS transport of pediatric patients is common. This use is costly and may disrupt the delivery of EMS care to the remainder of the community. Efforts aimed at public education and providing alternative means of transport may significantly reduce charges and improve the delivery of EMS care.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulances / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Health Services Misuse / economics
  • Health Services Misuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Research
  • Hospital Charges
  • Hospitals, Pediatric*
  • Hospitals, Urban
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health
  • Life Support Care / economics
  • Life Support Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Trauma Centers / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States