Purpose of review: Much controversy exists about who can provide the best medical care for critically ill patients in the prehospital setting. The Anglo-American concept is on the whole to provide well trained paramedics to fulfil this task, whereas in some European countries emergency medical service physicians, particularly anaesthesiologists, are responsible for the safety of these patients.
Recent findings: Currently there are no convincing level I studies showing that an emergency physician-based emergency medical service leads to a decrease in overall mortality or morbidity of prehospital treated patients, but many methodical, legal and ethical issues make such studies difficult. Looking at specific aspects of prehospital care, differences in short-term survival and outcome have been reported when patients require cardiopulmonary resuscitation, advanced airway management or other invasive procedures, well directed fluid management and pharmacotherapy as well as fast diagnostic-based decisions.
Summary: Evidence suggests that some critically ill patients benefit from the care provided by an emergency physician-based emergency medical service, but further studies are needed to identify the characteristics and early recognition of these patients.