seek better patient care,
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“There is a lot of information about the crash that could help physicians treat patients. But they can’t get the most informative crash characteristics unless the data is shared,” said Eva Shipp, an associate professor of epidemiology at Texas A&M University’s School of Public Health.
They both want additional and specific information about individual car crashes and the treatment outcomes of those injured. The result of linking the data from the crash site with the emergency room could help improve the care given to patients and eventually help researchers prevent future accidents.
Pointing to the need for an integrated crash and injury data system, researchers say that between 2003 and 2012, more than 34,000 people were killed in Texas crashes with a combined cost of $200 billion. In 2012 alone, more than 230,000 people were injured.
“Right now, you have trauma data from the hospital and ambulance runs that are kept separately from crash data,” says Robert Wunderlich, director of the Center for Transportation Safety (CTS). “Because there is no link, we don’t have a complete picture: medical personnel often get vague descriptions of the crash, and researchers know little or nothing about the outcome of the patient’s treatment.”
But can those vital data be linked?
A pilot project — Assessing the Feasibility of Creating an Integrated Crash and Injury Data System for Texas — is now underway between the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. CTS researchers will supply crash data for the project. The study is headed up by Eva Shipp, an associate professor of epidemiology at Texas A&M University’s School of Public Health.
“For clinicians, it could be extremely helpful to know things like the angle of the crash, vehicle speed, vehicle type, did the airbags deploy, was a seatbelt being used and the position of the injured person inside the vehicle,” Shipp says. “There is a lot of information about the crash that could help physicians treat patients. But they can’t get the most informative crash characteristics unless the data is shared.”
For the pilot project, Harris County accident information (which is already part of TxDOT’s Crash Records Information System) will be matched with patient data from Herman Memorial Hospital. (Personal information will be stripped from the data to keep patients’ identities private.)
“It’s a major undertaking,” says Deborah del Junco, associate professor of surgery at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston and an expert in data linkage. “But once we gather all the information from emergency medical services, the trauma center and the crash site, we can create injury profiles. And then we will have a much better idea of where we can go from here.”
The results of the pilot project will be helpful in identifying how the linked data can be used to prioritize safety projects, assess emergency response needs and deployment, and determine what emergency medical interventions improve patient outcomes.
“The amount of data that is out there, but not linked, is enormous. The pilot will determine if and how successful we are in linking the data and how we can use it,” del Junco says. “I hope that some of the things we uncover will be helpful and perhaps have never even occurred to us. We fully expect to be surprised.”
Transportation safety researchers and members of the medical profession say they could do more if they knew more.