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BACKGROUND - The Rural Trauma Team Development Course (RTTDC) is designed to teach knowledge and skills for the initial assessment and stabilization of trauma patients in resource-limited environments. The effect of RTTDC training on transfers from nontrauma centers to definitive care has not been studied. We hypothesized that RTTDC training would decrease referring hospital emergency department (ED) length of stay (LOS), time to call for transfer, pretransfer computed tomography (CT) imaging rate, and mortality rate.
METHODS - We conducted a pre/post analysis of trauma patients who were transferred from rural, nontrauma hospitals from 2012 to 2014. Patients from six rural hospitals that participated in an RTTDC course were compared with a control group of similar centers that did not participate in the course. Primary outcome evaluated was referring hospital ED LOS, which was estimated using a difference-in-differences regression model. Secondary outcomes were time to transfer call, pretransfer CT imaging rates, and mortality.
RESULTS - Two hundred fifty-three patients were available for study (RTTDC group, n = 130; control group, n = 123). Demographics, CT imaging, and mortality rates were similar between the two groups. In the primary outcome, the RTTDC group experienced an overall 61-minute reduction in referring hospital LOS (p = 0.02) compared with the control group. The RTTDC group also showed a 41-minute reduction (p = 0.03) in time to call for transfer compared with controls. There were no differences in the secondary outcomes of pretransfer CT scanning rates or mortality.
CONCLUSIONS - Rural Trauma Team Development Course training shortens ED LOS at rural, nontrauma hospitals by more than 1 hour without increasing mortality. Future educational and research efforts should focus on decreasing unnecessary imaging prior to transfer as well as opportunities to improve mortality rates. This study suggests an important role for RTTDC training in the care of rural trauma patients and may allow trauma centers to recapture the "golden hour" for transferred trauma patients.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE - Therapeutic/care management study, level III.