Study: Better Evidence Needed on Resource Allocation in Mass Casualty Events

Existing literature on strategies to manage scarce medical resources in a mass casualty event is largely inconclusive, according to a study in Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Researchers conducted a literature review of evidence published from 1990 through 2011 on strategies to effectively manage and allocate scarce resources in response to mass casualties. The researchers identified four strategies studied alone or in combination with other strategies:

•    Reducing demand for healthcare services
•    Optimizing use of existing resources
•    Augmenting existing resources
•    Implementing crisis standards of care

Based on the evidence, the authors could make conclusions on only two strategies:
1. In the category of reducing demand for healthcare services, "points of dispensing can be used to efficiently distribute biological countermeasures after a bioterrorism attack or influenza pandemic, and their organization influences speed of distribution," the authors wrote.
2. In the category of optimizing use of existing resources, common field triage systems do not have consistent effects across actual mass casualty events, according to the study.

Evidence for the remaining strategies was insufficient to determine their effectiveness. The authors suggest more and stronger evidence is necessary to guide healthcare providers and policymakers in managing resources in mass casualty events.

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