Can Emergency Medical Services Utilization Rates Be Used to Measure the Success of an Alcohol Amnesty Policy?
Medical Amnesty/Good Samaritan (MAGS) policies, which eliminate legal charges when students call 9-1-1 for alcohol use, have been implemented with the goal of reducing barriers to accessing Emergency Medical Services (EMS). This study investigated the impact of MAGS policy implementation on EMS calls on campus and if that EMS call volume could be used to measure policy success. The aim of this study was to compare the prevalence of alcohol-related EMS calls before and after MAGS implementation at a single large public university campus.
A retrospective review of all 9-1-1 calls to on-campus locations was conducted using patient care records (PCRs) from a collegiate EMS agency responding exclusively to on-campus 9-1-1 calls. Calls were excluded if the PCR was marked “incomplete”, were outside the 2015 CBEMS response zone boundaries, or if patient age was <15 or >25 years old to ensure analysis was targeting the on-campus student population. The incidence of alcohol-related 9-1-1 calls was compared between one academic year (AY) prior to (pre-MAGS, AY2015) and two years after MAGS implementation (post-MAGS, AY2016/17). An alcohol-related 9-1-1 call was defined as an EMS provider primary or secondary impression of “Alcohol, Alcohol Intoxication, or Alcohol Ingestion” or a call in which the patient explicitly admitted to alcohol use. Relative risk (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were used to describe the results.
Over the three-year study period, the collegiate EMS agency responded to 2440 calls of which 1283 met inclusion criteria. 58 calls were excluded for being incomplete, 227 were outside the original boundaries and 872 were outside the defined age range. Of those calls, 351 were pre-MAGS and 932 were post-MAGS. Of the total 9-1-1 calls, 127 (36.2%) were related to alcohol pre-MAGS and 327 (35.1%) were related to alcohol post-MAGS policy implementation. The relative risk of a 9-1-1 call being made for alcohol-related issues after MAGS implementation was RR = 0.97 (95% CI 0.83-1.14; P = 0.713).
Implementation of a MAGS policy was not associated with a significant change in the number of alcohol-related EMS responses. It is unclear if these results reflect ineffective policy implementation or a general reduction in on-campus alcohol consumption. However, using EMS call volume as a marker for policy success and quality improvement offers an innovative tool through which EMS agencies can provide valuable feedback to other system stakeholders.