Tracing frequent users of regional care services using emergency medical services data: a networked approach

Laura Maruster*, D.J. van der Zee, Jaap Hatenboer, Erik Buskens

*Corresponding author for this work

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Objectives: This study shows how a networked approach relying on ‘real-world’ emergency medical services (EMS) records might contribute to tracing frequent users of care services on a regional scale. Their tracing is considered of importance for policy-makers and clinicians, since they represent a considerable workload and use of scarce resources. While existing approaches for data collection on frequent users tend to limit scope to individual or associated care providers, the proposed approach exploits the role of EMS as the network’s ‘ferryman’ overseeing and recording patient calls made to an entire network of care providers.

Design: A retrospective study was performed analysing 2012–2017 EMS calls in the province of Drenthe, the Netherlands. Using EMS data, benefits of the networked approach versus existing approaches are assessed by quantifying the number of frequent users and their associated calls for various categories of care providers. Main categories considered are hospitals, nursing homes and EMS.

Setting: EMS in the province of Drenthe, the Netherlands, serving a population of 491 867.

Participants: Analyses are based on secondary patient data from EMS records, entailing 212 967 transports and 126 758 patients, over 6 years (2012–2017).

Results: Use of the networked approach for analysing calls made to hospitals in Drenthe resulted in a 20% average increase of frequent users traced. Extending the analysis by including hospitals outside Drenthe increased ascertainment by 28%. Extending to all categories of care providers, inside Drenthe, and subsequently, irrespective of their location, resulted in an average increase of 132% and 152% of frequent users identified, respectively.

Conclusions: Many frequent users of care services are network users relying on multiple regional care providers, possibly representing inefficient use of scarce resources. Network users are effectively and efficiently traced by using EMS records offering high coverage of calls made to regional care providers
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere036139
Number of pages6
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 27-May-2020

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