Background: With the progress emergency department (ED) observation units have made in reducing admissions for cardiac conditions, we previously reported a discharge rate of only 23.7% (n=1,549/6,546) from our ED, without an observation stay, for these patients. We opened a Cardiac Direct Access (CDAc) unit at a tertiary care urban medical center hypothesizing that cardiologists can reduce testing and observation stays for appropriate cardiac patients.
Methods: Patients are referred to the CDAc for evaluation on an emergent (same day) or urgent (within 7 day) basis. We performed a retrospective review of 629 consecutive patients referred to the CDAc between November 2016 and June 2017. Final disposition was determined using charge data. The 30-day return rate to an ED, hospital, or the CDAc was determined by follow-up phone calls and chart review.
Results: Patients were referred by non-cardiologists (n=403/629, 64%) and cardiologists (n=226/629, 36%). The most common indications for evaluation were chest pain, arrhythmia, and suspected heart failure. Disposition of patients evaluated in the CDAc are reported in the figure. The mean length of stay in CDAc observation was 22+/-13 hours. Among the 574 patients discharged from the CDAc, 62 (11%) were seen in an ED and/or hospitalized, while 31 (5.4%) were seen in the CDAc within 30 days.
Conclusion: A CDAc unit may serve as a high value alternative to the ED. Further research can help assess comparative cost-effectiveness and refine patient selection.