Safety and compliance with an emergency medical service direct psychiatric center transport protocol



      To evaluate compliance and safety of an emergency medical service (EMS) triage protocol that allows paramedics to transport patients directly to psychiatric emergency services.


      A psychiatric patient diversion protocol was developed for our system. Protocol compliance was evaluated the following 3 ways: (1) psychiatric facility intake forms completed by mental health workers on patients transported by EMS directly to a psychiatric emergency service (PES) bypassing the ED, (2) hospital records for patients who were redirected from PES to the ED for medical evaluation, (3) retrospective analysis of ambulance charts. Study outcomes included protocol noncompliance rate, protocol failure rate, and any morbidity associated with either noncompliance or protocol failure. Data were analyzed using proportions and 95% confidence intervals (CI).


      A total of 174 patients were directly transported to PES bypassing ED medical clearance. The protocol effectively screened for medical issues in 96% of cases. Protocol noncompliance occurred in 51 cases for a frequency of 29% (CI, 22%-36%). One patient in the paramedic noncompliance group required hospital admission. There was protocol failure in 5 (2.9%; 95% CI, 0.9-6.6) of the patients who fit all protocol requirements for transport to PES but required secondary transport to the ED. All were subsequently transferred back to PES. Nine patients (5.2%; CI, 2.7%-9.5%) required secondary transfer to the ED. No patient had critical or life-threatening problems.


      Emergency medical service providers showed a poor level of compliance with vital sign criteria, but the protocol provided a high level of safety.
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