Acuity Prediction Using Emergency Medical Services Prenotifications in a Pediatric Emergency Department

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Abstract

Objectives

Emergency medical services (EMS) prenotifications are critical, although they oftentimes inaccurately convey the arriving patient’s true acuity, resulting in inappropriate preparation in the emergency department. The objectives of this study were (1) to determine interrater reliability of acuity prediction based on prenotifications among physicians and (2) to compare predicted versus actual patient acuity based on prenotifications.

Methods

A panel of physicians reviewed recordings of EMS prenotifications and then predicted the patient’s acuity using the Emergency Severity Index (ESI). The scores were analyzed for interrater reliability using the weighted κ statistic. In the prospective phase of the study, physicians predicted an ESI before patient arrival based solely on the EMS prenotification and then calculated an actual ESI upon arrival. Descriptive statistics were calculated, and comparisons between the predicted and actual ESI were performed using Wilcoxon signed rank for matched pairs.

Results

Panelists reviewed a total of 23 recordings, and the interrater reliability was 0.23 overall (SE, 0.026; P < 0.001), indicating only fair agreement. One hundred patients were enrolled in the prospective analysis. There was a statistically significant difference between the predicted and actual ESI made by physicians (P = 0.0001). For 46 patients, the predicted and actual scores matched, but 13 patients were “undertriaged,” and 41 patients were “overtriaged” based on predicted acuity.

Conclusions

Interpretation of acuity using EMS prenotifications among physicians was only fairly reliable, and physicians had difficulty predicting actual acuity based on prenotifications. Improper preparation based on these prenotifications can potentially impact patient care and resource allocation.

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