A Standardized Clinical Pathway to Decrease Hospital Admissions Among Febrile Children With Sickle Cell Disease

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Background and Objective:

Recurrent hospital admissions for patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) are costly and contribute to a low quality of life for patients. We implemented a clinical pathway to safely discharge SCD patients with fever who are evaluated in the emergency department (ED) of a large tertiary care center.


An interdisciplinary team of ED and hematology physicians, nurses, and an improvement advisor developed a clinical pathway that identified febrile SCD patients at low risk of serious bacterial infection based on historical, clinical, and laboratory criteria who could be discharged from the ED. Phone follow-up was planned through the use of an automated electronic notification that was sent to an established hematology follow-up pool at the time of ED discharge. We conducted two “fake front end” trials in the ED to receive feedback on our process before full implementation. A postpathway implementation quality improvement team monitored discharge rates, phone follow-up rates and adverse events.


In the first 9 weeks postpathway implementation, 100 SCD patients were evaluated for fever; 84 (24%) met low-risk criteria and were discharged home. This reduction in admission rate has been maintained throughout the 3 years postimplementation. Successful phone follow-up was achieved in all discharged patients within 24 hours and no adverse events were identified.


Low-risk febrile patients with SCD can be safely discharged from the ED. An automated notification system within the electronic medical record system can facilitate patient follow-up after ED discharge. Future quality improvement efforts aimed to further reduce admissions in this population should target patients with modifiable risk factors for serious bacterial infection.

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