Differences between the dispatch priority assessments of emergency medical dispatchers and emergency medical services: a prospective register-based study in Finland

Tomi Salminen, Kaius Kaartinen, Mervi Roos, Verna Vaajanen, Ari Ekstrand, Piritta Setälä, Sanna Hoppu

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Background: Responsive and efficient emergency medical services (EMS) require accurate telephone triage. In Finland, such services are provided by Emergency Response Centre Agency (ERC Agency). In 2018, a new Finnish computer-assisted emergency dispatch system was introduced: the Emergency Response Integrated Common Authorities (ERICA). After the introduction of ERICA, the appropriateness of EMS dispatch has not been investigated yet. The study´s objective is to determine the consistency between the priority triage of the emergency medical dispatcher (EMD) and the on-scene priority assessment of the EMS, and whether the priority assessment consistency varied among the dispatch categories. Methods: This was a prospective register-based study. All EMS dispatches registered in the Tampere University Hospital area from 1 August 2021 to 31 August 2021 were analysed. The EMD’s mission priority triaged during the emergency call was compared with the on-scene EMS’s assessment of the priority, derived from the pre-set criteria. The test performance levels were measured from the crosstabulation of true or false positive and negative values of the priority assessment. Statistical significance was analysed using the chi-square test and the Kruskal–Wallis H test, and p-values < 0.05 were considered significant. Results: Of the 6416 EMS dispatches analysed in this study, 36% (2341) were urgent according to the EMD’s dispatch priority, and of these, only 29% (688) were urgent according to the EMS criteria. On the other hand, 64% (4075) of the dispatches were non-urgent according to the EMD’s dispatch priority, of which 97% (3949) were non-urgent according to the EMS criteria. Moreover, there were differences between the EMD and EMS priority assessments among the dispatch categories (p < 0.001). The overall efficiency was 72%, sensitivity 85%, specificity 71%, positive predictive value 29%, and negative predictive value 97%. Conclusion: While the EMD recognised the non-urgent dispatches with high consistency with the EMS criteria, most of the EMD’s urgent dispatches were not urgent according to the same criteria. This may diminish the availability of the EMS for more urgent missions. Thus, measures are needed to ensure more accurate and therefore, more efficient use of EMS resources in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Number of pages10
JournalScandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Ambulance
  • Emergency Medical Communication Centre
  • Emergency medical dispatch
  • Emergency medical services
  • Pre-hospital triage
  • Telephone triage

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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