Background: Rapid access to definitive care is a fundamental tenet of trauma care and forms the basis for current emergency medical and trauma systems. Helicopters offer expedited transport to trauma centers and can deliver advanced practice personnel to the scene of injury, but many systems do not dispatch air medical crews until after assessment by ground providers. Objectives: Here we report data from the AAMS Auto Launch Survey and perform a literature review. Methods: A 7-question survey was developed by the AAMS Research Committee and approved by the board. An invitation to participate in the survey was sent by electronic mail to all current members. A link to an online survey was included. Results were presented descriptively. Some respondents were willing to share auto launch protocols, which were categorized into patient-related factors, event-related factors, and geographic considerations. Results: A total of 86 usable responses were recorded, which represented about a third of the 240 total AAMS members. Of these, 38 respondents (44.2%) routinely use auto launch. Just over half of those using early activation reported using a combination of event- and patient-related considerations; most also incorporating geographic criteria. About one-third of respondents auto launch only at the request of ground personnel, and about one-quarter use geographic criteria alone. Threshold distances ranged from 20 to 25 miles or 20 to 30 minutes by ground. Conclusions: About half of respondents routinely use auto launch, although protocols are not consistent. Auto launch appears to offer a mechanism for decreasing EMS response times, but additional research is needed to help define optimal dispatch criteria. Copyright 2005 by Air Medical Journal Associates.
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