Complexity of the decision-making process of ambulance staff for assessment and referral of older people who have fallen: a qualitative study
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.
SourceAvailable from: Ceri J Phillips[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: To evaluate effectiveness, safety and cost-effectiveness of Computerised Clinical Decision Support (CCDS) for paramedics attending older people who fall.PLoS ONE 09/2014; 9(9):e106436. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0106436 · 3.53 Impact Factor
[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Objective. Emergency medical services (EMS) often transports patients who suffer simple falls in assisted-living facilities (ALFs). An EMS “falls protocol” could avoid unnecessary transport for many of these patients, while ensuring that patients with time-sensitive conditions are transported. Our objective was to retrospectively validate an EMS protocol to assist decision making regarding the transport of ALF patients with simple falls. Methods. We conducted a retrospective cohort study of patients transported to the emergency department from July 2010 to June 2011 for a chief complaint of “fall” within a subset of ALFs served by a specific primary care group in our urban EMS system (population 900,000). The primary outcome, “time-sensitive intervention” (TSI), was met by patients who had wound repair or fracture, admission to the ICU, OR, or cardiac cath lab, death during hospitalization, or readmission within 48 hours. EMS and primary care physicians developed an EMS protocol, a priori and by consensus, to require transport for patients needing TSI. The protocol utilizes screening criteria, including history and exam findings, to recommend transport versus nontransport with close primary care follow-up. The EMS protocol was retrospectively applied to determine which patients required transport. Protocol performance was estimated using sensitivity, specificity, and negative predictive value (NPV). Results. Of 653 patients transported across 30 facilities, 644 had sufficient data. Of these, 197 (31%) met the primary outcome. Most patients who required TSI had fracture (73) or wound repair (92). The EMS protocol identified 190 patients requiring TSI, for a sensitivity of 96% (95% CI: 93–98%), specificity of 54% (95% CI: 50–59%), and NPV of 97% (95% CI: 94–99%). Of 7 patients with false negatives, 3 were readmitted (and redischarged) after another fall, 3 sustained hip fractures that were surgically repaired, and 1 had a lumbar compression fracture and was discharged. Conclusions. In this cohort, two-thirds of patients with falls in ALFs did not require TSI. An EMS protocol may have sufficient sensitivity to safely allow for nontransport of these patients with falls in ALFs. Prospective validation of the protocol is necessary to test this hypothesis.Prehospital Emergency Care 07/2014; 19(1). DOI:10.3109/10903127.2014.936631 · 1.81 Impact Factor
[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Paramedics routinely make critical decisions about the most appropriate care to deliver in a complex system characterized by significant variation in patient case-mix, care pathways and linked service providers. There has been little research carried out in the ambulance service to identify areas of risk associated with decisions about patient care. The aim of this study was to explore systemic influences on decision making by paramedics relating to care transitions to identify potential risk factors. An exploratory multi-method qualitative study was conducted in three English National Health Service (NHS) Ambulance Service Trusts, focusing on decision making by paramedic and specialist paramedic staff. Researchers observed 57 staff across 34 shifts. Ten staff completed digital diaries and three focus groups were conducted with 21 staff. Nine types of decision were identified, ranging from emergency department conveyance and specialist emergency pathways to non-conveyance. Seven overarching systemic influences and risk factors potentially influencing decision making were identified: demand; performance priorities; access to care options; risk tolerance; training and development; communication and feedback and resources. Use of multiple methods provided a consistent picture of key systemic influences and potential risk factors. The study highlighted the increased complexity of paramedic decisions and multi-level system influences that may exacerbate risk. The findings have implications at the level of individual NHS Ambulance Service Trusts (e.g. ensuring an appropriately skilled workforce to manage diverse patient needs and reduce emergency department conveyance) and at the wider prehospital emergency care system level (e.g. ensuring access to appropriate patient care options as alternatives to the emergency department). © The Author(s) 2014 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav.Journal of Health Services Research & Policy 01/2015; 20(1):45-53. DOI:10.1177/1355819614558472 · 1.73 Impact Factor