Disparities in Trauma Center Access Despite Increasing Utilization: Data From California, 1999 to 2006

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Background:Although efforts have been made to address disparities in access to trauma care in the past decade, there is little evidence to show if utilization has changed. We use patient-level data to describe the changes in utilization of trauma centers (TCs) in an 8-year period in California.Methods:We analyzed all statewide trauma admissions (n = 752,706) using the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Discharge Patient Discharge Database from the period of 1999 to 2006, and determined the trends in admissions and place of care.Results:The proportion of severe injuries admitted increased by 3.6% (p < 0.05), with a concomitant rise in the proportion of patients with trauma to TCs, from 39.3% (95% CI: 39.0%–39.7%) to 49.7% (49.4%–50.0%). Within the severely injured with injury severity scores (ISS) >15, 82.4% were treated in a TC if they resided in a county with a TC, compared with 30.8% of patients who did not live in a county with a TC. After adjustment, patients living greater than 50 miles away from a TC still had a likelihood ratio of 0.11 (p < 0.0001) of receiving care in a TC compared with those less than 10 miles away. Similarly, even severely injured patients not living in a county with a TC had a likelihood ratio of 0.35 (p < 0.0001) of being admitted to a TC compared with those residing in counties with TCs.Conclusion:Admissions to TCs for all categories of injury severity are increasing. There remains, however, a large disparity in TC care depending on geographical distance and availability of a TC within county.

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