Hospital ward transfer to intensive care unit as a quality marker in emergency medicine

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Abstract

Background:

Minimizing and preventing adverse events and medical errors in the emergency department (ED) is an ongoing area of quality improvement. Identifying these events remains challenging.

Objective:

To investigate the utility of tracking patients transferred to the ICU within 24 h of admission from the ED as a marker of preventable errors and adverse events.

Methods:

From November 2011 through June 2016, we prospectively collected data for all patients presenting to an urban, tertiary care academic ED. We utilized an automated electronic tracking system to identify ED patients who were admitted to a hospital ward and then transferred to the ICU within 24 h. Reviewers screened for possible error or adverse event and if discovered the case was referred to the departmental Quality Assurance (QA) committee for deliberations and consensus agreement.

Results:

Of 96,377 ward admissions, 921 (1%) patients were subsequently transferred to the ICU within 24 h of ED presentation. Of these 165 (19%) were then referred to the QA committee for review. Total rate of adverse events regardless of whether or not an error occurred was 2.1%, 19/921 (95% CI 1.4% to 3.0%). Medical error on the part of the ED was 2.2%, 20/921 (95% CI 1.5% to 3.1%) and ED Preventable Error in 1.1%, 10/921 (95% CI 0.6% to 1.8%).

Conclusion:

Tracking patients admitted to the hospital from the ED who are transferred to the ICU < 24 h after admission may be a valuable marker for adverse events and preventable errors in the ED.

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