Should the ER Triage Patients Traditionally or is Eyeballing Patients Enough?

Healthcare Knowledge Provider

Simply eyeballing a patient may be more effective than using a formal structured assessment to prioritise those who are sickest, finds research published in Emergency Medicine Journal. A basic clinical assessment seems to better predict those most at risk of death, even in the hands of healthcare professionals with relatively little emergency care experience. The researchers base their findings on a comparison of the triage decisions made at one emergency department over three months. Experienced nurses used an established algorithm to decide which patients were sickest; while phlebotomists and medical students made their decisions by looking at each patient. 6290 patients were assessed using both methods. It was rare for both methods to arrive at the same decisions for the same patients. And when the ability to assess the likelihood of death within 48 hours and 30 days was compared, eyeballing the patient was more accurate than structured triage. This is an observational study, and as such, can’t establish cause. In a linked editorial, Dr Ellen Weber of UCSF, says that although the study was carried out in only one emergency department, with a triage system not widely used, “we need to ask in these days of rising medical costs and patient numbers if we can afford to continue doing it the way we have always done it if we can do it just as well or better a simpler way.”

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