Introduction: Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) are used worldwide in order to provide potentially life-saving pre-hospital medical support to trauma patients at the accident scene. It is currently unclear how much overlap exists regarding the number and type of dispatch criteria used by individual HEMS organisations. The aim of the current study was to provide an overview of dispatch criteria for trauma cases used by HEMS organisations within Europe, and search for similarities and differences, between countries and HEMS stations. Materials and methods: HEMS dispatch criteria related to trauma care were obtained from the literature and divided into four groups of criteria and processed in a questionnaire. HEMS providing organisations were identified and contacted by telephone and via email. Results: Fifty-five of the 65 organisations (85%) that were contacted completed the questionnaire. The criteria "Fall from height", "Lengthy extrication and significant injury" and "Multiple casualty incidents" were used most frequently. Criteria from the subgroup "Patient Characteristics - Co-morbidities and Age" were used the least. In 44 of the organisations the Central Dispatch Centre (CDC) was primarily responsible for HEMS dispatch. Conclusion: This overview demonstrates the lack of uniformity in the use of dispatch criteria for trauma assistance on a national and international level. Furthermore, the activation of HEMS is not only depending on dispatch criterion protocols, but is also influenced by organisational factors like the education of the dispatcher, the training of the EMS personnel, the familiarity with the dispatch criteria, and the responses of bystanders. Future research should aim to identify a general set of criteria with the highest discriminating potential.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Dispatch criteria, Europe, HEMS, Helicopter Emergency Medical Services, Pre-hospital care, Trauma, Trauma helicopter
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.injury.2010.03.015, hdl.handle.net/1765/25672
Citation
Wigman, L.D, van Lieshout, E.M.M, de Ronde, G, Patka, P, & Schipper, I.B. (2011). Trauma-related dispatch criteria for Helicopter Emergency Medical Services in Europe. Injury: international journal of the care of the injured, 42(5), 525–533. doi:10.1016/j.injury.2010.03.015