Evaluation of medical response in disaster preparedness : with special reference to full-scale exercises
Abstract: Background: Disaster exercises and simulations serves as teaching and training tool for improving medical response in disaster preparedness. Rapid and effective medical response in major incidents is known as a “key phase” to optimise resources, and this requires that management systems have an “all hazards” approach. Decision-making at all levels of management is based on available information and involves allocation of medical resources and triage decisions. Aim: The overall aim of this thesis was to increase our knowledge of the impact of quantitative evaluation of medical response on disaster preparedness. The specific aims were: to increase the ability to learn from full-scale exercises by applying quality indicators at two levels of command and control (I, II); to identify key indicators essential for initial disaster medical response registration (III); to explore ambulance staff attitudes towards practising triage tagging (IV); and to increase our knowledge of the applicability of a technical support system and its potential to provide real-time, overall situation awareness available to those overseeing the medical management of the operation. Methods: Study I, II and V were observational studies based on data collections from full-scale exercises. Templates with measurable performance indicators for evaluation of command and control were used in Study I and II and the same performance indicators combined with outcome indicators was also included in Study II. A consensus method, the Delphi technique, with 30 experts was used in Study III. Study IV used mixed methods, a pre-and post web survey answered by ambulance nurses and physicians (n=57 respectively 57) before and after a time limited strategy with triage tags and three focus groups interviews comprising 21 ambulance nurses and emergency medical technicians. Study V used major two incidents simulations to test the applicability of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID tags) technology and compare it with traditionally paper-based triage tags (n= 20 respectively 20). The quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics, and content analysis was used for the qualitative data. Results: The evaluation model exposed several problems occurring in the initial decision-making process that were repeatedly observed (I, II). These results in study II also demonstrated to have a major impact on patient outcome.Out of 17 severely injured patients five respectively seven were at risk for preventable death. A total of 97 statements were generated, of these 77 statements reached experts consensus, and 20 did not (III). Ambulance staffs believe in the usefulness of standardised triage methods, but the sparse application of triage tags at the scene indicates that the tags are not used frequently. Infrequent use in daily practice prevents participants from feeling confident with the triage tool (IV).The Radio Frequency Identification system improved situational awareness in disaster management. Triage information was available at least one hour earlier compared to a paper-based triage system (V). Conclusions: The presented evaluation model can be used in an objective, systematic and reproducible way to evaluate complex medical responses, which is a prerequisite for quality assurance, identification of problems, and the development of disaster preparedness.
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