Pediatric Utilization of Emergency Medical Services from Outpatient Offices and Urgent Care Centers

Jennifer K. Saper*, Michelle L. Macy, Christian Martin-Gill, Sriram Ramgopal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: National efforts have highlighted the need for pediatric emergency readiness across all settings where children receive care. Outpatient offices and urgent care centers are frequent starting points for acutely injured and ill children, emphasizing the need to maintain pediatric readiness in these settings. We aimed to characterize emergency medical services (EMS) utilization from outpatient offices and urgent care centers to better understand pediatric readiness needs. Methods: We performed a retrospective cross-sectional analysis of EMS encounters using the National Emergency Medical Services Information System, a nationally representative EMS registry (2019–2022). We included four years of EMS encounters of children (<18 years old) that originated from an outpatient office or urgent care center. We described characteristics, including patient demographics, prehospital clinician impression, therapies, and procedures performed. Results: Of 179,854,336 EMS encounters during the study period, 164,387 pediatric encounters originated at an outpatient setting. Most EMS encounters originated from outpatient offices. Evening and weekend EMS encounters more frequently originated from urgent care centers. The most common impressions were respiratory distress (n = 60,716), systemic illness (n = 23,583), and psychiatric/behavioral health (n = 13,273). Ninety-four percent of EMS encounters resulted in transportation to a hospital. Conclusions: EMS encounters from outpatient settings most commonly originate from outpatient offices, relative to urgent care settings, where pediatric emergency readiness may be limited. It is important that outpatient settings and providers are ready for varied emergencies, including those occurring for a behavioral health concern, and that readiness guidelines are updated to address these needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAcademic Pediatrics
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • emergency medical services
  • pediatric ambulatory care
  • readiness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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