Rapid response teams in adult hospitals: time for another look?

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Rapid response teams (RRT), alternatively termed medical emergency teams, have become part of the clinical landscape in the majority of adult hospitals throughout Australia and New Zealand. These teams aim to bring critical care expertise to the bedside of clinically deteriorating patients residing in general hospital wards with the aim of preventing adverse outcomes, in particular death or cardiorespiratory arrests. While the concept of RRT has considerable face validity, there is little high quality evidence of their effectiveness and much uncertainty as to the optimal methods for identifying patients in need of RRT and calling the RRT (afferent limb) and how, and with whom, the RRT should then respond (efferent limb). Adverse unintended consequences of RRT systems and the opportunity costs involved in maintaining such systems have not been subject to study, amid concerns RRT may be compensating for other potentially remediable system of care failures. This article presents an overview of the current state of play of RRT in hospital practice as they pertain to the care of adult patients and identifies several issues around their implementation and evaluation that should be subject to further research.

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