Impact of revised triage to improve throughput in an ED with limited traditional fast track population

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Abstract

Background:

Emergency department (ED) crowding is associated with patient safety concerns, increased patients left without being seen (LWBS), low patient satisfaction, and lost ED revenue. The objective was to measure the impact of a revised triage process on ED throughput.

Methods:

This study took place at an urban, university-affiliated, adult ED with an annual census of 70,000 and admission rate of 34%. The revised triage approach included: identifying eligible patients at triage based on complaint, comorbidities, and illness acuity; and reallocating a nurse practitioner (NP) into our triage area. We trialed the intervention from 1100–2300 on weekdays from January 13–26, 2016. Adult patients who were not likely to require intensive evaluations were eligible. Primary outcomes were throughput measures including: time to provider, ED length of stay (LOS), and LWBS. Pre- and post-intervention metrics were compared using the Mann-Whitney U test, given the non-normal distribution of the metrics.

Results:

The NP evaluated 120 patients of which 101 (84%) were discharged, 3 (2.5%) admitted, and 16 (13%) required more intense evaluation. Time to provider decreased from a median (IQR) of 42 (16, 114) to 27 (12.4, 81.5) minutes (p < 0.01) and ED LOS from 290 (194.8, 405.6) to 257 (171.2, 363.4) minutes (p < 0.01) for all patients not admitted and not requiring a consult. LWBS decreased from a pre-trial 4.6% to 2.2% (p < 0.01).

Conclusion:

The revised triage intervention was associated with improvements in several ED throughput metrics and a reduction in LWBS.

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