University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications

Title

Cost-effectiveness of helicopter versus ground emergency medical services for trauma scene transport in the United States

UMMS Affiliation

Center for Health Policy and Research

Date

10-1-2013

Document Type

Article

Medical Subject Headings

Adolescent; Adult; Aged; Aged, 80 and over; Air Ambulances; Ambulances; Cost-Benefit Analysis; Female; Health Care Costs; Humans; Injury Severity Score; Male; Middle Aged; Models, Theoretical; Quality-Adjusted Life Years; United States; Wounds and Injuries; Young Adult

Disciplines

Emergency Medicine | Health Services Administration | Health Services Research | Trauma

Abstract

STUDY OBJECTIVE: We determine the minimum mortality reduction that helicopter emergency medical services (EMS) should provide relative to ground EMS for the scene transport of trauma victims to offset higher costs, inherent transport risks, and inevitable overtriage of patients with minor injury.

METHODS: We developed a decision-analytic model to compare the costs and outcomes of helicopter versus ground EMS transport to a trauma center from a societal perspective during a patient's lifetime. We determined the mortality reduction needed to make helicopter transport cost less than $100,000 and $50,000 per quality-adjusted life-year gained compared with ground EMS. Model inputs were derived from the National Study on the Costs and Outcomes of Trauma, National Trauma Data Bank, Medicare reimbursements, and literature. We assessed robustness with probabilistic sensitivity analyses.

RESULTS: Helicopter EMS must provide a minimum of a 15% relative risk reduction in mortality (1.3 lives saved/100 patients with the mean characteristics of the National Study on the Costs and Outcomes of Trauma cohort) to cost less than $100,000 per quality-adjusted life-year gained and a reduction of at least 30% (3.3 lives saved/100 patients) to cost less than $50,000 per quality-adjusted life-year. Helicopter EMS becomes more cost-effective with significant reductions in patients with minor injury who are triaged to air transport or if long-term disability outcomes are improved.

CONCLUSION: Helicopter EMS needs to provide at least a 15% mortality reduction or a measurable improvement in long-term disability to compare favorably with other interventions considered cost-effective. Given current evidence, it is not clear that helicopter EMS achieves this mortality or disability reduction. Reducing overtriage of patients with minor injury to helicopter EMS would improve its cost-effectiveness. Inc. All rights reserved.

Rights and Permissions

Citation: Ann Emerg Med. 2013 Oct;62(4):351-364.e19. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2013.02.025. Epub 2013 Apr 9. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID

23582619