Prehospital emergency care services

Prehospital emergency care means examination and care of a patient by medical professionals, as opposed to the first aid given by laymen. Prehospital emergency care services include urgent assessment of the patient's state of health, prehospital emergency care and, where necessary, transportation of the patient into a health care unit for follow-up care.

The prehospital emergency care service treats patients who have fallen seriously ill or sustained a severe injury, but assessment of the patient’s state of health and need for care is also carried out in less urgent situations. Typical prehospital emergency care service missions include chest pain, difficulties in breathing, cerebrovascular disorders as well as traffic accidents and falling and slipping accidents.

What should I do if I need prehospital emergency care?

If you notice that you or another person is in a medical emergency, call the emergency number 112. The emergency response centre operator will give you instructions and assess the need for care. Further information on calling the emergency number is available on the Emergency Response Centre website.

What will the prehospital emergency care service do?

A call to 112 will activate the prehospital emergency care service where needed. The emergency response centre operator will evaluate the need for assistance over the phone and alert the appropriate resources to address the situation based on the evaluation made.

When the prehospital emergency care service arrives on the scene, a new assessment of the situation will be made, the necessary pre-hospital emergency treatment will already be given on-site, and the patient will be transported to the most appropriate health care unit where necessary.

In prehospital emergency care, the assessment of vital functions includes the measurement of blood pressure, pulse, cardiac function, level of consciousness, blood glucose level and, where applicable, alcohol content. The field management and physician-staffed unit is also capable of conducting more extensive tests on-site. Where necessary, the patient's vital functions will be supported. Breathing, for example, will be assisted by means of a variety of technical aids, and blood circulation will be treated with fluid and/or medicinal therapy. Effective pain management is also an important part of prehospital emergency care.

Triage classification

The patient’s condition will be systematically assessed by means of a method where the patient is always examined according to a specific protocol and the sufficiency of vital functions is assessed. In the assessment, account is taken of factors such as the patient’s respiration, blood circulation, level of consciousness and potential trauma findings.

In mass casualty incidents, the patients are always classified in a predefined manner in such a way that they receive treatment and potential transportation to the hospital in the proper order of priority – the patient who is in the most critical condition will be treated and transported first.

In Finland, prehospital emergency care missions are assigned to four triage classes:

  • Class A mission: a severe disturbance of vital functions or imminent threat thereof. The target time for reaching the patient is within 8 minutes of the alert.
  • Class B mission: a disturbance of vital functions cannot be excluded. The target time for reaching the patient is within 8 minutes of the alert.
  • Class C mission: a minor disturbance of vital functions or other reason due to which the situation must at least be checked on-site. The target time for reaching the patient is within 30 minutes of the alert.
  • Class D mission: a non-urgent prehospital emergency care mission or a pre-ordered scheduled mission. The target time for reaching the patient is within 2 hours of the alert.

Transportation to the hospital

A prehospital emergency care situation does not always make it necessary to transport the patient to a health centre or hospital. The solution that is most suitable for the patient will be chosen based on the situation assessment and examinations carried out by health care professionals. Based on the examinations carried out and the potential treatment given on-site, the patient may sometimes stay home or, for example, take a taxi to the emergency clinic.

Ambulance transportation is only necessary if the patient's condition calls for constant monitoring or medicinal treatment or the admission to a treatment facility is otherwise urgent. The patient will be transported to a hospital when, following the assessment of the situation, it is concluded that the illness or injury calls for follow-up care in a hospital and other forms of transportation such as taxi are precluded.

Helicopter will be used for transporting the patient to follow-up care when this is assumed to yield a clear time benefit for the patient. Patient transportation is not the primary purpose of a physician-staffed helicopter, even in the event where a helicopter lands on the scene of the incident. The principal goal is to provide on-site doctor-level medical expertise to treat a critically ill or insured patient.

Persons in charge

Division Manager Suvi Liimatainen
Head of Department Pia Puolakka
Physician-in-Charge, Prehospital Emergency Care (Tampere University Hospital Special Responsibility Area) Kaius Kaartinen
Physician-in-Charge, Prehospital Emergency Care (Pirkanmaa Hospital District/Operative Functions) Antti Kämäräinen