In emergency situations, a quick response is critical. The "golden hour" refers to the short period immediately after the onset of an acute illness or injury, during which administration of appropriate treatment has a significant impact on health outcomes. In the case of coronary heart disease, the National Service Framework stipulates that 75% of emergency calls should be reached within 8 min. There is evidence that further reducing this response time to 5 min could increase the survival rate for cardiac arrests by 10–11%.
According to a residential survey in 2007, 75% of all adults in the United Kingdom owned or used a mobile phone and 92% of households had a landline. Existing research on health impacts associated with mobile phone use has mainly focused on the increased risk of accidents when using mobile phones while driving, and the possible harmful effects of long-term mobile phone use. Potential health benefits of mobile phone use have been less widely studied, except for telemedicine-type applications, but could include immediacy of access to emergency services, advice to bystanders, and victim first aid.
A telephone survey of mobile phone users in Australia (n = 720) showed that 12% had used mobile phones to report road accidents; 6% to report medical (non-road) emergencies; 1% to report a psychiatric crisis; and 0.14% to report a heart attack, epileptic seizure, or diabetic coma. More recently, a UK study showed that mobile phone use for reporting emergencies increased from 5% to 29% of total emergency calls from 1999 to 2004 in London, and the use of mobile phone in combination with a locator system was associated with an improvement in response times to accidents and other emergency situations. Automatic provision of location information for emergency calls from mobile phones was not available before September 2003, and accuracy is dependent on the density of network antenna sites.
To our knowledge, there has been no formal examination of the potential for improved health outcomes for patients through the use of mobile phones during emergency. Based on the assumption that mobile phone use can reduce the time between an emergency incident and its reporting, it might be expected that earlier intervention by emergency services will improve patients' probability of survival.
Goal of this Investigation
In this study, we tested the hypothesis that initial contact with ambulance services via a mobile phone is associated with reduced risk of death when compared to contact via a landline. This study examined whether patients hospitalized after initial contact with mobile phone were more or less severely ill, under the assumption that the more severe a patient's condition, the longer they would stay in the hospital, in particular, in intensive care. Finally, we also examined whether mobile phone use may have lowered the threshold for summoning help, measured as the proportion of patients transferred from the scene to the hospital.