Ambulance response times longer in low-income zip codes, study finds

Ambulance response times to cardiac arrest 911 calls are 10 percent longer in low-income areas, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.

For the study, researchers analyzed 911 calls for 63,600 cardiac arrest patients transported to the hospital using data from the 2014 National Emergency Medical Services Information System for 46 out of 50 state repositories. Researchers compared response times to zip code-based income levels and national benchmarks that recommend responding to cardiac arrest calls within four, eight and 15 minutes.

The average total EMS time for zip codes with the highest income was 37.5 minutes, compared to 43 minutes for zip codes in the lowest income bracket. Ambulance response times were also more likely to meet eight- and 15-minute benchmarks in high-income zip codes. Overall, the poorest areas of the U.S. had 10 percent longer total EMS times even when researchers controlled for outside variables.

"Patients with cardiac arrest from the poorest neighborhoods had longer EMS times that were less likely to meet national benchmarks compared with those from the wealthiest neighborhoods, which may lead to increased disparities in the delivery of prehospital care over time," researchers concluded.

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