[Analgesia in the emergency medical service: comparison between tele-emergency physician and call back procedure with respect to application safety, effectiveness and tolerance]

A Gnirke, S K Beckers, S Gort, A Sommer, H Schröder, R Rossaint, M Felzen
Der Anaesthesist 2019, 68 (10): 665-675

BACKGROUND: Acute pain is a common reason for calling emergency medical services (EMS) and can require medication depending on the pain intensity. German EMS personnel feel strong pressure to reduce a patient's pain but are restricted by law. Currently, German federal law only allows the administration of opioid-containing drugs by or on the order of a physician, while in other European countries (e.g. Switzerland and The Netherlands) the administration of opioid-based analgesia by trained and certified paramedics is common practice. Consequently, a patient in Germany experiencing acute pain needs the attendance of an emergency physician in EMS missions. According to international standards pain reduction on the numeric rating scale (NRS) score by ≥2 or a NRS score ≤4 at the end of the patient transport is considered to be adequate.

OBJECTIVE: Comparison of two different algorithm-based concepts for analgesia with consultation of a physician analyzing the efficacy, tolerance and safety of application.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: In a retrospective cohort study in two different regions, two physician-supported algorithm-based analgesia concepts, a call back-supported concept (EMS Schleswig-Holstein: RKiSH) and a tele-EMS physician-based concept (EMS Aachen: RDAC), were compared over 2 years. The call back-supported concept is based on specific algorithms and certification of EMS personnel. In Aachen, the tele-EMS physician is integrated into the routine EMS system and includes immediate vital data transmission.

RESULTS: Over a period of 2 years call back-supported analgesia was administered in 878 cases (2016: 428, 2017: 450) and telemedically assisted analgesia was used in 728 cases (2015: 226, 2016: 502). Call back vs. telemedicine: initial NRS scores were 9 (8-10) and 8 (6-9), respectively (p < 0.0001); NRS scores were reduced by 4 (3-5) and 5 (3-6), respectively (p = 0.0002), leading to mean NRS scores of 4 (3-6) vs. 3 (2-4), respectively (p < 0.0001) at patient handover/emergency room arrival. Clinically relevant pain reduction was achieved in both groups. Complete NRS documentation was conducted in 753 (85.8%) vs. 673 (92.4%) cases, respectively, p = 0. Severe adverse events did not occur in either of the groups.

CONCLUSION: The administration of analgesia by EMS personnel with teleconsultation of a physician is effective and has a low rate of complications, particularly morphine. Overall, algorithm-based call back-supported as well as telemedically supported analgesia concepts based on regular training improve the management of pain in the prehospital setting. In addition, the resources of the emergency physician remain available for life-threatening emergencies. The training, certification and supervision of EMS personnel is very important in both systems to ensure the best pain management care and patient safety. Adjustments to the federal law on the administration of analgesics would facilitate the realization of algorithm-based concepts by paramedics as pain reduction could be performed with delegation by a medical director without consulting another physician.

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