The Epidemiology of Prehospital Emergency Responses for Older Adults in a Provincial EMS System

Goldstein J, Jensen JL, Carter AJ, Travers AH, Rockwood K.



Societal aging is expected to impact the use of emergency medical services (EMS). Older adults are known as high users of EMS. Our primary objective was to quantify the rate of EMS use by older adults in a Canadian provincial EMS system. Our secondary objective was to compare those transported to those not transported.


We analysed data from a provincial EMS database for emergency responses between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010 and included all older adults (≥65 years) requesting EMS for an emergency call. We described EMS use in relation to age, sex, and resources.


There were 30,653 emergency responses for older adults in 2010, representing close to 50% of the emergency call volume and an overall response rate of 202.8 responses per 1,000 population 65 years and older. The mean age was 79.9±8.5 years for those 57.3% who were female. The median paramedic-determined Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale (CTAS) score was 3 and the mean on-scene time was 24.2 minutes. Non-transported calls (12.3%) for the elderly involved predominantly (54.9%) female patients of similar mean age (78.3 years) but lower acuity (CTAS 5) and longer average on-scene times (32.6 minutes).


We confirmed the increasingly high rate of EMS use with age to be consistent with other industrialized populations. The low-priority and non-transport calls by older adults consumed considerable resources in this provincial system and might be the areas most malleable to meet the challenges facing EMS systems.