Response of Consultants to the Emergency Department: A Preliminary Report

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Study objective:

To determine the timeliness of response of consultants called to evaluate patients in the emergency department of a community hospital.


Consultation requests from an ED located in a medium-sized community hospital were studied for a 1-month period. Data collected included name and specialty of the consultant, urgency of patients' conditions, times of pages, and times of consultants' responses and arrival in the ED.


Two hundred forty-one consultations were requested and 199 data forms relating to 21 staff physicians were analyzed. Mean number of pages required to reach a consultant was 1.5±.4. Mean time from the first page to telephone response was 8±6 minutes and from first page to ED arrival was 42±23 minutes. Mean time from the first page to the consultant's arrival in the ED was significantly shorter for emergency (17±10 minutes) than for urgent or nonurgent patients (50±41 and 41±23 minutes, respectively). There were wide variations in individual patterns of response; the 7 fastest consultants had a mean first page to arrival time of 25±10 minutes, and for the slowest 5 consultants the time was 56±24 minutes.


Response times of consultants to the ED vary depending on the urgency of the patient's condition and individual behavior patterns.

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