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Physician attendance during interhospital patient transfer in Ontario: 2005-2015

Wonnacott D, Frymire E, Khan S, Green ME. Can J Rural Med. 2019; 24(2):37-43. Epub 2019 Mar 22. DOI: 10.4103/CJRM.CJRM_22_18.


Introduction — Interhospital transfer of patients may be attended by a variety of healthcare providers, including physicians. The role of physicians in ambulance transfer in Ontario is not well studied. This study aims to describe the cohort of physicians providing intra-ambulance patient care in Ontario from 2005 to 2015. Secondary outcomes of interest were geographical characteristics of physician-attended transfers and patient characteristics.

Methods — OHIP billing data were used to find all instances of physician-attended air or land ambulance transfer from 2005 to 2015. These data were matched to physician data from the Corporate Providers Database and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences Physicians Database to describe the physicians providing intra-ambulance care. Patient and geographical data came from the National Ambulatory Care Reporting System and Registered Persons Database to describe the rurality of physician-attended transfers and patient characteristics.

Results — There were 916–1216 physician-attended transfers performed by 508–639 unique physicians in any given year. Physicians were mostly family physicians without anaesthesia or emergency medicine training (58%), with CCFP-EM physicians accounting for 17% and family medicine anaesthetists 10%. Thirty-eight per cent of physicians providing intra-ambulance care practised in rural settings. Seventy-three per cent of physician-attended land transfers originated in suburban, rural or remote hospitals.

Conclusions — Physician-attended ambulance transfer in Ontario is largely provided by family physicians in suburban to remote settings. This may have implications for the education of resident physicians in this unique skill set. Further research is needed into current education practices in intra-ambulance care.

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