Four years ago- AZ’s Trauma System was really in its infancy.   We had 7 Level I (high-end) Trauma Centers…  but that’s it.  After 4 years and a full court press- we now have a functional statewide trauma system to help folks who get injured outside the metropolitan areas that includes 31 trauma centers including 16 of the Level IV Centers in rural Arizona.  Over the past few years I’ve blogged about the progress we’ve made.  There was a pretty detailed newspaper article in the Republic this week as well.  

Our system growth puts us at a pivotal point…  which is why we asked the American College of Surgeons to come out and review our system and make recommendations earlier this year.  Normally we’d ask the American College of Surgeons to conduct an analysis of our Trauma System every 10 years- but we asked them to conduct a review of our system a few years early because of the remarkable expansion and progress we’ve made over the last 4 years.  So, what’s in the report?  For one, traumatic injury in rural AZ still has room for improvement.  Trauma care in the urban areas of Phoenix and Tucson is solid…  and we want to make sure that we keep it that way and improve even further where we can.  

We don’t have the statutory authority to implement a designation moratorium for additional Level I Trauma Centers as the report recommends- but we do recognize the importance of having sufficient patient volume to support the necessary resources and provider expertise required by the highest level Trauma Centers. We have a few top-tier trauma system priorities right now:  1) redoubling our efforts on preventing injury from happening in the first place (prevention is always the best cure); 2) helping our Level III and IV trauma centers implement performance improvement practices in their facilities to ensure that trauma patients get high quality and timely care in the field- whether rural or urban; 3) identifying 3 hospitals to become Level III trauma centers in rural AZ; and 4) updating our trauma plan- which will contain a three-year package of objectives that we can work on with all of our trauma system stakeholders.  

Why the continued focus on rural AZ?  It’s pretty simple…  our injury surveillance data clearly shows that the biggest improvements in outcomes from traumatic injury will come from improving care in the first hour after the injury- and because of the geographic distribution of our injury and response times- that means continuing to focus our energy on both the quantity and quality of care when folks are injured outside of the main urban areas.  We put together a set of frequently asked questions that shed some light on where we plan on going from here.  I’m excited to think about what additional progress we’ve made, and how we continue to move the needle on trauma in Arizona- contributing to ”Health and Wellness for all Arizonans”.