HealthDay News — Patients with cardiac arrest from the poorest neighborhoods have longer emergency medical service (EMS) times, according to a study published online Nov. 30 in JAMA Network Open.

Renee Y. Hsia, M.D., from the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues conducted a retrospective cross-sectional study to examine the correlation between ZIP code-level income and EMS response times. The study used ambulance 911 response data for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest from 46 states in the United States. Data were included for 63,600 cardiac arrest encounters for patients who did not die on the scene and were transported to the hospital.

The researchers found that 59 and 12.9 percent of patients were from high-income and low-income areas, respectively. 

The mean total EMS time was 37.5 and 43 minutes in the highest and lowest ZIP code income quartiles, respectively. Total EMS time remained 10 percent longer after the researchers controlled for urban ZIP code, week day, and time of day, which translated to 3.8 minutes longer in the poorest ZIP codes. The likelihood of meeting eight- and 15-minute cutoffs was increased for patients in high-income ZIP codes compared with those in low-income ZIP codes.

“Given that whether or not a patient survives cardiac arrest can depend on a matter of minutes, even small delays in EMS response times may negatively alter patient outcomes,” the authors write.

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