Disparities in Emergency Medical Services Care Delivery in the United States: A Scoping Review.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

BACKGROUND: Emergency medical services (EMS) often serve as the first medical contact for ill or injured patients, representing a critical access point to the health care delivery continuum. While a growing body of literature suggests inequities in care within hospitals and emergency departments, limited research has comprehensively explored disparities related to patient demographic characteristics in prehospital care. OBJECTIVE: We aimed to summarize the existing literature on disparities in prehospital care delivery for patients identifying as members of an underrepresented race, ethnicity, sex, gender, or sexual orientation group. METHODS: We conducted a scoping review of peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed (gray) literature. We searched PubMed, CINAHL, Web of Science, Proquest Dissertations, Scopus, Google, and professional websites for studies set in the U.S. between 1960 and 2021. Each abstract and full-text article was screened by two reviewers. Studies written in English that addressed the underrepresented groups of interest and investigated EMS-related encounters were included. Studies were excluded if a disparity was noted incidentally but was not a stated objective or discussed. Data extraction was conducted using a standardized electronic form. Results were summarized qualitatively using an inductive approach. RESULTS: One hundred forty-five full-text articles from the peer-reviewed literature and two articles from the gray literature met inclusion criteria: 25 studies investigated sex/gender, 61 studies investigated race/ethnicity, and 58 studies investigated both. One study investigated sexual orientation. The most common health conditions evaluated were out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (n = 50), acute coronary syndrome (n = 36), and stroke (n = 31). The phases of EMS care investigated included access (n = 55), pre-arrival care (n = 46), diagnosis/treatment (n = 42), and response/transport (n = 40), with several studies covering multiple phases. Disparities were identified related to all phases of EMS care for underrepresented groups, including symptom recognition, pain management, and stroke identification. The gray literature identified public perceptions of EMS clinicians' cultural competency and the ability to appropriately care for transgender patients in the prehospital setting. CONCLUSIONS: Existing research highlights health disparities in EMS care delivery throughout multiple health outcomes and phases of EMS care. Future research is needed to identify structured mechanisms to eliminate disparities, address clinician bias, and provide high-quality equitable care for all patient populations.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Farcas, AM; Joiner, AP; Rudman, JS; Ramesh, K; Torres, G; Crowe, RP; Curtis, T; Tripp, R; Bowers, K; von Isenburg, M; Logan, R; Coaxum, L; Salazar, G; Lozano, M; Page, D; Haamid, A

Published Date

  • November 29, 2022

Published In

Start / End Page

  • 1 - 14

PubMed ID

  • 36369725

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1545-0066

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1080/10903127.2022.2142344


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England