Emergency medical dispatching by general practitioners in Brussels

Eur J Emerg Med. 1995 Sep;2(3):160-71.


The objective of this study was to introduce general practitioners (GPs) to the existing emergency medical services (EMS) system, in order to improve the response to emergency residential calls. The study was based in Brussels, which has 1 million residents. A GP dispatcher (GPD) was placed in the emergency dispatch centre, with a stand-by GP, together with adequate equipment, at his or her immediate disposal. A comparative evaluation was conducted in 1994 to measure the changes brought by the availability of a stand-by GP to the emergency medical dispatching performed by the GPD in an experimental zone (EZ) in comparison with a control zone (CZ). The evolution between a first period at the beginning of the year and a second period in September was also analysed. In total, 1059 residential emergency calls were included in the study. The amount of missing data in the filing cards, collaboration between the emergency medical dispatcher (EMD) and the GPD, and evaluation of the emergency levels were improved by training the GPD and the stand-by GP. Intervention times of the stand-by GP varied according to the level of the emergency. The sending of supplementary assistance after dispatching an EMS ambulance, a stand-by GP or a GP of an on-call service was significantly different in the EZ compared with the CZ. The percentage of EMS ambulances and GPs sent increased. The evolution between the two periods was characterized in the CZ by the disappearance of the supplementary assistance performed by the stand-by GP or by the GP of the on-call service and in the EZ by a slight but not significant increased use of the mobile intensive care units (MICUs) for initial assistance. A stand-by GP was used in about 10% of the cases as supplementary assistance. A large number of non-vital urgent complaints arrive at the dispatch centre. The availability of a stand-by GP does not cause an increase (rather a decrease) in MICU use in initial care and supplementary assistance. It causes a decrease in the total EMS ambulances and transport to hospital and an increase in the use of EMS ambulances and stand-by GP as supplementary assistance. Following stand-by GP intervention, only 25% of visited people are hospitalized. Introduction of GPs is relevant because they are used to discerning critical events from a large number of non-critical disorders. The GPD can adapt the emergency medical dispatching by using a stand-by GP, without compromising the medical assistance to vital emergencies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Belgium
  • Emergency Medical Service Communication Systems / organization & administration*
  • Emergency Medical Service Communication Systems / standards
  • Emergency Medical Service Communication Systems / statistics & numerical data
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Physician's Role*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Quality Control
  • Triage
  • Urban Population