Even if you’re a fan of having it all, make sure you don’t take the luxurious route to the hospital.
Word has it that when traveling to the hospital with trauma, a stroke, a heart attack and respiratory failure, it’s better to be transported by basic life support ambulances (BLS), than by advanced (ALS) ambulances.
A recent study published in Annals of Internal Medicine and reported on in the Harvard Gazette focused on Medicare patients in urban counties located throughout the country, and their mode of transportation in getting to the hospital during medical emergencies that are major causes of death.
Having a heart attack? It would be assumed that taking the advanced life support ambulance to the hospital in these conditions would be the best choice. Results show that this isn’t the case.
The Gazette reported that the study analyzed outcomes for nearly 400,000 emergency patients between 2006 and 2011. It was found that basic life support patients were more likely to survive and more likely to have better non-survival outcomes, like neurological functioning, than those who used advanced support ambulances to get to the hospital.
Why is basic better? For a few specific and simple reasons. Advanced life support ambulances are equipped to perform more invasive procedures and are staffed by paramedics. Paramedics have great training and are likely to try to help right there on the spot, rather than whisk the patient away to hospital immediately.
Basic ambulances are staffed by medical technicians with minimal equipment. A BLS ambulance crew doesn’t have the option to try an invasive procedure in an emergency-they simply focus on basic treatment and on getting the victim to the hospital right away. In these cases, it seems like fast transportation is the best bet.
“This study demonstrates that in medicine costlier isn’t always better; simply transporting the patient to the hospital as soon as possible appears to have a high payoff,” Harvard Medical School associate professor of health care policy, Joseph Newhouse, is quoted as saying.
The study was conducted at Harvard Medical School with co-authors Anupam Jena, HMS associate professor of health care policy; Joseph Newhouse, John D. MacArthur Professor of Health Policy and Management at Harvard University; and Alan Zaslavsky, professor of health care policy at HMS.
Using the expenditures of 2011 as a bench mark, the study also found that Medicare would have spent $322 million less on ambulance services in that year if all ground emergency rides had been taken in basic life support ambulances. Saving lives and saving money: sounds good.