Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Accuracy of rapid disposition by emergency clinicians

Andrew Backay A C , Adam Bystrzycki A , De Villiers Smit A , Martin Keogh A , Gerard O’Reilly A and Biswadev Mitra A B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Emergency & Trauma Centre, The Alfred Hospital, Commercial Road, Melbourne, Vic. 3004, Australia. Email: a.bystrzycki@alfred.org.au; m.keogh@alfred.org.au; d.smit@alfred.org.au; g.o’reilly@alfred.org.au

B Department of Epidemiology & Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Monash Medical Centre, 246 Clayton Road, Clayton, Vic. 3168, Australia. Email: biswadev.mitra@monash.edu

C Corresponding author. Email: andrew.backay@monashhealth.org

Australian Health Review 41(2) 133-138 https://doi.org/10.1071/AH15052
Submitted: 16 June 2014  Accepted: 18 May 2015   Published: 27 July 2015

Abstract

Objectives Rapid disposition protocols are increasingly being considered for implementation in emergency departments (EDs). Among patients presenting to an adult tertiary referral hospital, this study aimed to compare prediction accuracy of a rapid disposition decision at the conclusion of history and examination, compared with disposition following standard assessment.

Methods Prospective observational data were collected for 1 month between October and November 2012. Emergency clinicians (including physicians, registrars, hospital medical officers, interns and nurse practitioners) filled out a questionnaire within 5 min of obtaining a history and clinical examination for eligible patients. Predicted patient disposition (representing ‘rapid disposition’) was compared with final disposition (determined by ‘standard assessment’).

Results There were 301 patient episodes included in the study. Predicted disposition was correct in 249 (82.7%, 95% confidence interval (CI) 78.0–86.8) cases. Accuracy of predicting discharge to home appeared highest among emergency physicians at 95.8% (95% CI 78.9–99.9). Overall accuracy at predicting admission was 79.7% (95% CI 67.2–89.0). The remaining 20.3% (95% CI 11.0–32.8) were not admitted following standard assessment.

Conclusion Rapid disposition by ED clinicians can predict patient destination accurately but was associated with a potential increase in admission rates. Any model of care using rapid disposition decision making should involve establishment of inpatient systems for further assessment, and a culture of timely inpatient team transfer of patients to the most appropriate treating team for ongoing patient management.

What is known about the topic? In response to the National Emergency Access Targets, there has been widespread adoption of rapid-disposition-themed care models across Australia. Although there is emerging data that clinicians can predict disposition accurately, this data is currently limited.

What does this paper add? Results of this study support the previously limited evidence that ED practitioners can accurately predict disposition early in the patient journey through ED, and that accuracy is similar across clinician groups. In addition to overall prediction accuracy, admission, discharge and treating team predictions were separately measured. These additional outcomes lend insight into safety and performance aspects relating to a rapid disposition model of care.

What are the implications for practitioners? This study offers practical insights that could aid safe and efficient implementation of a rapid disposition model of care.

Additional keywords: emergency service, emergency medicine, hospital, hospitalisation, quality improvement, triage.


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