The use of emergency medical services (EMS) can be lifesaving for critically ill children and should be defined by the child's clinical need. Our objective was to determine whether nonclinical demographic factors and insurance status are associated with EMS use among children presenting to the emergency department (ED).Methods
In this cross-sectional study using the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, we included children presenting to EDs from 2009 to 2014. We evaluated the association between EMS use and patients' insurance status using multivariable logistic regressions, adjusting for demographic, socioeconomic, and clinical factors such as illness severity as measured by a modified and recalibrated version of the Revised Pediatric Emergency Assessment Tool (mRePEAT) and the presence of comorbidities or chronic conditions. A propensity score analysis was performed to validate our findings.Results
Of the estimated 191,299,454 children presenting to EDs, 11,178,576 (5.8%) arrived by EMS and 171,145,895 (89.5%) arrived by other means. Children arriving by EMS were more ill [mRePEAT score, 1.13; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.12–1.14 vs mRePEAT score, 1.01; 95% CI: 1.01–1.02] and more likely to have a comorbidity or chronic condition (OR: 3.17, 95% CI: 2.80–3.59). In the adjusted analyses, the odds of EMS use were higher for uninsured children and lower for children with public insurance compared with children with private insurance [OR (95% CI): uninsured, 1.41 (1.12–1.78); public, 0.77 (0.65–0.90)]. The propensity score analysis showed similar results.Conclusions
In contrast to adult patients, children with public insurance are less likely to use EMS than children with private insurance, even after adjustment for illness severity and other confounders.