What is a Trauma System?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2019
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A trauma system is a program that administers trauma care across a given area, like a state or province. Trauma systems coordinate the efforts of hospitals and other medical facilities, as well as care providers, emergency services, patient transport services, and other parties involved in providing trauma care. Trauma is a leading cause of death in many regions of the world and the provision of efficient, consistent, high quality care can radically improve patient outcomes in situations like car accidents, building collapses, and shootings.

The trauma care system is usually supervised by a government agency. Some governments establish separate agencies or advisory committees to handle trauma systems, while others may fold such systems into public health and welfare departments. Members of the coordinating team can include professionals working at many levels of trauma care, from board certified trauma surgeons to police officers.

The goal of a trauma care system is to create a network of trauma care across a region so that citizens are rarely out of reach of trauma services. This includes the development of standards used to grade trauma facilities by the level of care they can safely provide, allowing the coordinators to find weak points in the trauma care delivery system so they can target specific facilities for upgrades. A trauma system also includes trainings for people involved in various stages of trauma care, including ambulance crews and hospital personnel.


Managing a trauma system also includes maintaining demographic statistics on the population. Researchers learn more about the types of injuries common in the area, regions where trauma cases are particularly common, and other issues that can affect care, such as lack of access to surgical personnel in rural areas. Public outreach and education can also be included in a trauma system with the goal of reducing the number of cases entering the system in the first place.

Developing an effective and comprehensive trauma system can take years. Governments often provide funding incentives to help communities reach care targets like ensuring that no citizen is more than 45 minutes away from a hospital. This funding can be used to upgrade facilities, improve public education programs, and provide other services related to the trauma system, including services at rehabilitation facilities and long-term care facilities for trauma survivors. Communities may also be eligible for additional grants and funding to help them meet their health care goals and provide services to as many people as possible.


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