"Trauma centers provide certain kinds of care that are not available everywhere and to get the right patient to the trauma center is important, and keeping healthy people away is really important, too, because you don't want to overrun that particular resource and fly them from 50 or 100 miles away," Gestring said.
The authors reviewed information from the Illinois state trauma registry, which includes data from 64 trauma centers in the state, for the years 1999 through 2003.
They found 22,447 cases where patients had been transferred between facilities; information on timing was available in just over half of these.
Only 4,502 patients being transferred, or 20 percent, made it to their final destination within the prescribed two hours, although the median transfer time was really not that much higher: 2 hours and 21 minutes.
Those who did make it within the two-hour window were the most severely injured, indicating that trauma professionals were making the right decisions when triaging patients. These patients were also more likely to die, likely a reflection of how seriously they were injured.
Transferring patients is actually a fairly complicated process, with many variables playing into how fast the job gets done.
For instance, professionals have to decide how the transfer is going to happen, via ambulance or helicopter.
"If it's an ambulance, you might have deserts and mountains to deal with," Gestring said. "If it snows, helicopters are not particularly helpful."
Needless to say, many of these factors just aren't under the control of EMTs and doctors.
"I think the directive needs to be modified to something as generic as 'in an expeditious fashion' or 'in an appropriate timely fashion,'
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