BACKGROUND: A geographic information system (GIS)-based transport network within an emergency referral system can be the key to reducing health system delays and increasing the chances of survival, especially during an emergency. We employed a GIS to design an emergency transport system for the rapid transfer of pregnant or early post-partum women, newborns, and children under 5 years of age with suspected sepsis under the Interrupting Pathways to Sepsis Initiative (IPSI) project.
METHODS: A GIS database was developed by mapping the villages, roads, and relevant physical features of the study area. A travel-time algorithm was developed to incorporate the time taken by different modes of local transport to reach the health complexes. These were used in a network analysis to identify the shortest routes to the hospitals from the villages, which were categorized into green, yellow, and red zones based on their proximity to the nearest hospitals to provide transport facilities. An emergency call-in centre established for the project managed the transport system, and its data was used to assess the uptake of this transport system amongst distant communities.
RESULTS: Fifteen pre-existing and two new routes were identified as the shortest routes to the health complexes. The call-in centre personnel used this route information to direct both patients and transport drivers to the nearest transport hubs or pick-up points. Adherence with referral advice was high in areas where the IPSI transport operated. Over the study period, the utilisation of the project's transport doubled and referral compliance from distant zones similarly increased.
CONCLUSIONS: The GIS system created for this study facilitated rapid referral of patients in emergency from distant zones, using locally available transport and resources. The methodology described in this study to develop and implement an emergency transport system can be applied in similar, rural, low-income country settings.
- Emergency Medical Services/organization & administration
- Geographic Information Systems
- Referral and Consultation
- Transportation of Patients