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The Capital Region of Denmark - a part of Copenhagen University Hospital

Helicopter emergency medical services missions to islands and the mainland during a 3-year period in Denmark: a population-based study on patient and sociodemographic characteristics, comorbidity, and use of healthcare services

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BACKGROUND: The Danish Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) is part of the Danish Emergency Medical Services System serving 5.7 million citizens with 1% living on islands not connected to the mainland by road. HEMS is dispatched based on pre-defined criteria including severity and urgency, and moreover to islands for less urgent cases, when rapid transport to further care is needed. The study aim was to characterize patient and sociodemographic factors, comorbidity and use of healthcare services for patients with HEMS missions to islands versus mainland.

METHODS: Descriptive study of data from the HEMS database in a three-year period from 1 October 2014 to 30 September 2017. All missions in which a patient was either treated on scene or transported by HEMS were included.

RESULTS: Of 5776 included HEMS missions, 1023 (17.7%) were island missions. In total, 90.2% of island missions resulted in patient transport by HEMS compared with 62.1% of missions to the mainland. Disease severity was serious or life-threatening in 34.7% of missions to islands compared with 65.1% of missions to mainland and less interventions were performed by HEMS on island missions. The disease pattern differed with more "Other diseases" registered on islands compared with the mainland where cardiovascular diseases and trauma were the leading causes of contact. Patients from islands were older than patients from the mainland. Sociodemographic characteristics varied between inhabiting island patients and mainland patients: more island patients lived alone, less were employed, more were retired, and more had low income. In addition, residing island patients had to a higher extend severe comorbidity and more contacts to general practitioners and hospitals compared with the mainland patients.

CONCLUSIONS: HEMS missions to islands count for 17.7% of HEMS missions and 90.2% of island missions result in patient transport. The island patients encountered by HEMS are less severely diseased or injured and interventions are less frequently performed. Residing island patients are older than mainland patients and have lower socioeconomic position, more comorbidities and a higher use of health care services. Whether these socio-economic differences result in longer hospital stay or higher mortality is still to be investigated.

Original languageEnglish
Article number152
JournalScandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)152
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021. The Author(s).

    Research areas

  • Air Ambulances, Aircraft, Comorbidity, Delivery of Health Care, Denmark/epidemiology, Emergency Medical Services, Humans, Islands

ID: 69124610