Decision and reasons for calling an ambulance : patients’ perspective

Toloo, Sam, FitzGerald, Gerry, & Aitken, Peter (2013) Decision and reasons for calling an ambulance : patients’ perspective. In 18th World Congress on Disaster and Emergency Medicine (WCDEM), 28-31 May 2013, Manchester, United Kingdom.

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Demand for pre-hospital emergency care is increasing in Australia as in many other countries. Using posthoc criteria such as triage, diagnosis and admission status, some authors view a considerable number of these as "inappropriate". Yet, calling an ambulance at the time of emergency is rarely studied from the patients’ or their carers’ perspective. This study interviewed patients about the decision, circumstances surrounding and reasons for calling an ambulance in Queensland, Australia.


A cross-sectional survey of patients attending a sample of eight public hospital emergency departments in Queensland was undertaken between March and May 2011. In total, 911 questionnaires were collected (response rate: 67%), of whom 226 (24.8%) had arrived by ambulance.


In 35.6% of ambulance arrivals, the decision to request an ambulance was made by the patient; 25% by a doctor; 20% by a family member, friend or carer. Other callers included nurse, people at work or school, and passers-by. Reasons to request an ambulance included urgency (87%) and severity (84%) of the condition. Other reasons included requiring special care (76%), getting higher priority at the emergency department (34%), not having a car (34%), and financial concerns (17%). Decision to request an ambulance varied significantly according to the time of illness onset (e.g. on the day, week before), and location (e.g. home, outside).


The decision to call an ambulance is made mostly by non-medical professionals in a perceived emergency situation. They call the ambulance for different reasons but mainly take into account the patient’s welfare and safety. Better understanding of these reasons will affect the direction and effectiveness of demand management strategies.

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ID Code: 60612
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: An abstract of this presentation was published in: Prehospital and Disaster Medicine / Volume 28 / Supplement S1 / May 2013, s65. [Conference item ID 203]
Keywords: Ambulance utilisation, Patients' perspectives, Cross-sectional survey
DOI: 10.1017/S1049023X13000472
ISSN: 1049-023X
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Health and Community Services (111708)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Primary Health Care (111717)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION (160500) > Health Policy (160508)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Social and Community Psychology (170113)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Emergency & Disaster Management
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 Please consult the authors.
Deposited On: 05 Jun 2013 05:32
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2015 03:04

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