Beyond Survival: The Broader Consequences of Prehospital Transport by Police for Penetrating Trauma

Abstract [from journal]

Background: Time to definitive hemorrhage control is a primary driver of survival after penetrating injury. For these injuries, mortality outcomes after prehospital transport by police and emergency medical service (EMS) providers are comparable. In this study we identify patient and geographic predictors of police transport relative to EMS transport and describe perceptions of police transport elicited from key stakeholders.

Methods: This mixed methods study was conducted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which has the highest rate of police transport nationally. Patient data were drawn from Pennsylvania's trauma registry and geographic data from the US Census and American Community Survey. For all 7500 adults who presented to Philadelphia trauma centers with penetrating injuries, 2006-2015, we compared how individual and geospatial characteristics predicted the odds of police versus EMS transport. Concurrently, we conducted qualitative interviews with patients, police officers and trauma clinicians to describe their perceptions of police transport in practice.

Results: Patients who were Black (OR 1.50; 1.20-1.88) and Hispanic (OR 1.38; 1.05-1.82), injured by a firearm (OR 1.58; 1.19-2.10) and at night (OR 1.48; 1.30-1.69) and who presented with decreased levels of consciousness (OR 1.18; 1.02-1.37) had higher odds of police transport. Neighborhood characteristics predicting police transport included: percent of Black population (OR 1.18; 1.05-1.32), vacant housing (OR 1.40; 1.20-1.64) and fire stations (OR 1.32; 1.20-1.44). All stakeholders perceived speed as police transport's primary advantage. For patients, disadvantages included pain and insecurity while in transport. Police identified occupational health risks. Clinicians identified occupational safety risks and the potential for police transport to complicate the workflow.

Conclusions: Police transport may improve prompt access to trauma care but should be implemented with consideration of the equity of access and broad stakeholder perspectives in efforts to improve outcomes, safety, and efficiency.