Complexity of the decision-making process of ambulance staff for assessment and referral of older people who have fallen: A qualitative study

Faculty of Health and Social Care Sciences, Kingston University and St George's, University of London, London, UK.
Emergency Medicine Journal (Impact Factor: 1.84). 01/2011; 28(1):44-50. DOI: 10.1136/emj.2009.079566
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Older people who fall commonly present to the emergency ambulance service, and approximately 40% are not conveyed to the emergency department (ED), despite an historic lack of formal training for such decisions. This study aimed to understand the decision-making processes of emergency ambulance staff with older people who have fallen.
During 2005 ambulance staff in London tested a clinical assessment tool for use with the older person who had fallen. Documented use of the tool was low. Following the trial, 12 staff participated in semistructured interviews. Interviews were recorded and transcribed. Thematic analysis was carried out.
The interviews revealed a similar assessment and decision-making process among participants: Prearrival: forming an early opinion from information from the emergency call. Initial contact: assessing the need for any immediate action and establishing a rapport. Continuing assessment: gathering and assimilating medical and social information. Making a conveyance decision: negotiation, referral and professional defence, using professional experience and instinct.
An assessment process was described that highlights the complexity of making decisions about whether or not to convey older people who fall and present to the emergency ambulance service, and a predominance of informal decision-making processes. The need for support for ambulance staff in this area was highlighted, generating a significant challenge to those with education roles in the ambulance service. Further research is needed to look at how new care pathways, which offer an alternative to the ED may influence decision making around non-conveyance.

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    • "Dutch physicians define the situation 'medisch zinloos' [senseless], and the Netherlands was the first state to legislate on end-of-life situations, thus regulating the issue [8]. For some authors, the notion of treatment refusal should expand to additional practical issues and to cover non-professional staff, such as the case of paramedicals facing the refusal of a patient to be hospitalized [9]. In 2006 Austria promulgated a law regulating the issue of advance directives, mainly regarding the prolongation of the treatment, albeit the Dutch experience preceded the others' [10]. "
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    ABSTRACT: The Albanian medical system and Albanian health legislation have adopted a paternalistic position with regard to individual decision making. This reflects the practices of a not-so-remote past when state-run facilities and a totalitarian philosophy of medical care were politically imposed. Because of this history, advance directives concerning treatment refusal and do-not-resuscitate decisions are still extremely uncommon in Albania. Medical teams cannot abstain from intervening even when the patient explicitly and repeatedly solicits therapeutic abstinence. The Albanian law on health care has no provisions regarding limits or withdrawal of treatment. This restricts the individual's healthcare choices. The question of 'medically futile' interventions and pointless life-prolonging treatment has been discussed by several authors. Dutch physicians call such interventions 'medisch zinloos' (senseless), and the Netherlands, as one of the first states to legislate on end-of-life situations, actually regulates such issues through appropriate laws. In contrast, leaving an 'advance directive' is not a viable option for Albanian ailing individuals of advanced age. Verbal requests are provided during periods of mental competence, but unfortunately such instructions are rarely taken seriously, and none of them has ever been upheld in a legal or other official forum. End-of-life decisions, treatment refusal and do-not-resuscitate policies are hazardous options in Albania, from the legal point of view. Complying with them involves significant risk on the part of the physician. Culturally, the application of such instructions is influenced from a mixture of religious beliefs, death coping-behaviors and an immense confusion concerning the role of proxies as decision-makers. Nevertheless, Albanian tradition is familiar with the notion of 'amanet', a sort of living will that mainly deals the property and inheritance issues. Such living wills, verbally transmitted, may in certain cases include advance directives regarding end-of-life decisions of the patient including refusal or termination of futile medical treatments. Since these living wills are never formally and legally validated, their application is impossible and treatment refusal remains still non practicable. Tricks to avoid institutional treatment under desperate conditions are used, aiming to provide legal coverage for medical teams and relatives that in extreme situations comply with the advice of withholding senseless treatment.
    BMC Medical Ethics 06/2011; 12(1):12. DOI:10.1186/1472-6939-12-12 · 1.50 Impact Factor
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