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Health Spotlight: Bettering emergency responses in rural areas

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — For the millions of Americans who live in rural areas, living in the country has many quiet and laidback benefits. But for 25% of those who live in rural areas, the nearest trauma center is more than an hour away by helicopter.

A new study aims to help emergency crews make critical transport decisions when it comes to the severity of injuries in rural areas.

Dr. Joshua Brown, emergency medicine doctor at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and his team of researchers have studied the outcomes of 37,000 severely injured patients transported from rural areas to ERs by helicopters and ambulances.

The research they’ve found shows that short stops at local hospitals first can hurt some patients, as trauma surgeons lose valuable time in helping the patient.

“In trauma, we always talk about this golden hour from the time of injury to getting to the trauma center. The patients brought directly to the trauma center had almost a twofold increase in their survival as a result of getting to that trauma center earlier,” Brown said.

The research also supports medical crews in rural areas calling for a helicopter if patients have abnormal vital signs or altered mental states, spinal cord injuries, or severe chest trauma.

“Being able to give them this set of criteria can really help them make a huge difference in the patient’s outcomes,” Brown added.

Brown is working with the American College of Surgeons to develop triage guidelines for emergency responders. He and his colleagues are also working with EMS physicians across the country to get the information out to first responders as soon as possible.