Limitations in Prehospital Communication Between Trauma Helicopter, Ambulance Services, and Dispatch Centers

Annelieke Maria Karien Harmsen, Georgios Giannakopoulos, Gaby Franschman, Herman Christiaans, Frank Bloemers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Background Prehospital communication with Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is carried out in hectic situations. Proper communication among all medical personal is required to enhance collaboration, to provide the best care and enable shared situational awareness. Objective The objective of this article was to give insight into current Dutch prehospital emergency care communication among all EMS and evaluate the usage of a new physician staffed helicopter EMS (P-HEMS) cancellation model. Methods Trauma-related P-HEMS dispatches between November 1, 2014 and May 31, 2015 for the Lifeliner 1 were included; a random sample of 100 dispatches was generated. Tape recordings on all verbal prehospital communication between the dispatch center, EMS, and P-HEMS were transcribed and analyzed. Qualitative content analysis was performed, using open coding to code key messages. Results Ninety-two tape recordings were analyzed. The most frequent reason for P-HEMS dispatch was suspicion of brain injury (24%). The cancellation model was followed in 66%, overruled in 9%, and not applicable in 25%. The main reason for not adhering to the model was hemodynamic stability. In 5% of P-HEMS dispatches, a complete ABCD (airway, breathing, circulation, disability) methodology was used for handover, in 9% a complete Situation-Background-Assessment-Recommendation technique, in 2% a complete Mechanism-Injuries-Signs-Treatment method was used. The other handovers were incomplete. Conclusions Prehospital handover between EMS on-scene and P-HEMS often entails insufficient information. The cancellation model for P-HEMS is frequently used and promotes adequate information transfer. To increase joined decision-making, more patient and situational information needs to be handed over. Standardization of prehospital trauma handovers will facilitate this and improve trauma patient's outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-512
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • Emergency Medical Services
  • ambulances
  • communication
  • helicopter
  • prehospital
  • trauma

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