Motor Vehicle Crash Characteristics That Are Predictive of High Acuity Patients: An Analysis of Linked Ambulance and Crash Data

Ellen Ceklic, Hideo Tohira, Stephen J. Ball, Elizabeth Brown, Deon Brink, Paul Bailey, Austin Whiteside, Judith Finn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Web of Science)


Background:Motor vehicle crashes (MVCs) comprise a significant component of emergency medical service workload. Due to the potential for life-threatening injuries, ambulances are often dispatched at the highest priority to MVCs. However, previous research has shown that only a small proportion of high-priority ambulance responses to MVCs encounter high acuity patients. Alternative methods for triaging patients over the phone are required to reduce the burden of over-triage. One method is to use information readily available at the scene (e.g. whether a person was a motorcyclist, ejection status or whether an airbag deployed) as potential predictors of high acuity.Methods:A retrospective cohort study was conducted of all MVC patients in Perth attended by St John Western Australia between 2014 and 2016. Ambulance data was linked with Police crash data. The outcome variable of interest was patient acuity, where high acuity was defined as where a patient (1) died on-scene or (2) was transported by ambulance on priority one (lights & sirens) from the scene to hospital. Crash characteristics that are predictive of high acuity patients were identified by estimating crude odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals.Results:Of the 18,917 MVC patients attended by SJ-WA paramedics, 6.4% were classified as high acuity patients. The odds of being a high acuity patient was greater for vulnerable road users (motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists) than for motor vehicle occupants (OR 3.19, 95% CI, 2.80-3.64). A 'not ambulant patient' (one identified by paramedics as unable to walk or having an injury incompatible with being able to walk) had 15 times the odds of being high acuity than ambulant patients (OR 15.34, 95% CI, 11.48-20.49). Those who were trapped in a vehicle compared to those not trapped (OR 4.68, 95% CI, 3.95-5.54); and those who were ejected (both partial and full) from the vehicle compared to those not ejected (OR 6.49, 95% CI, 4.62-9.12) had higher odds of being high acuity patients.Discussion:There were two important findings from this study: (1) few MVC patients were deemed to be high acuity; and (2) several crash scene characteristics were strong predictors of high acuity patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-360
Number of pages10
JournalPrehospital Emergency Care
Issue number3
Early online date8 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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