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

Effect of the 4-h target on time-to-analgesia in an Australian emergency department: a pilot retrospective observational study

James A. Hughes A B D , C. J. Cabilan A and Andrew Staib A C

A Emergency Department, Princess Alexandra Hospital, 199 Ipswich Road, Woolloongabba, Qld 4102, Australia. Email: carajoyce.cabilan@health.qld.gov.au; andrew.staib@health.qld.gov.au

B School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University, 170 Kessels Road, Nathan, Qld 4111, Australia.

C School of Medicine, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: james.hughes@health.qld.gov.au

Australian Health Review - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH16025
Submitted: 14 September 2015  Accepted: 14 April 2016   Published online: 2 June 2016

Abstract

Objectives The aim of the present study was to assess the relationship between and the effect of the 4-h target or National Emergency Access Target (NEAT) on the time-to-analgesia (TTA), as well as the provision of analgesia in an adult emergency department (ED).

Methods The present study was a pilot descriptive explorative retrospective cohort study conducted in a public metropolitan ED. Eligible presentations for analysis were adults presenting with a documented pain score of ≥4 out of 10 between 1 and 14 September 2014. Triage Category 1, pregnant, chest pain and major trauma cases were excluded from the study. As a result, data for 260 patients were analysed.

Results Of 260 patients, 176 had analgesia with a median TTA of 49 min. Increased NEAT compliance did not significantly decrease TTA. However, when the factors that affected the provision of analgesia were analysed, an association was demonstrated between Admitted and Short Stay NEAT performance and the provision of analgesia. The likelihood of receiving analgesia at all increased as Admitted and Short Stay NEAT compliance improved.

Conclusion NEAT is a significant health policy initiative with little clinical evidence supporting its implementation. However, as the Admitted NEAT compliance increases, the probability of receiving analgesia increases, demonstrating a possible link between hospital function and clinical care provision that needs to be explored further.

What is known about the topic? The 4-h target or NEAT is a widely used initiative in EDs to allay crowding and access block. However, little is known of its impact on clinical endpoints, such as TTA.

What does this paper add? TTA was not significantly reduced as NEAT compliance increased. However, when the focus was on the probability of receiving analgesia, the results demonstrated that an improvement in Admitted and Short Stay NEAT compliance was associated with an increase in the likelihood of patients receiving analgesia.

What are the implications for practitioners? NEAT is a relatively recent initiative, hence evidence of its effect on clinically orientated outcomes is limited. Nevertheless, evidence of safety and effectiveness is emerging. The results of the present pilot study provide preliminary data on the timeliness of patient-centred care as demonstrated by TTA and administration of analgesia when required. Further, the results would seem to suggest that the provision of analgesia is affected by how timely patients are moved out of the ED to the in-patient setting. As for future investigations on TTA as a result of NEAT, a wider time period should be considered so that the accurate effect of compliance thresholds (e.g. ≥90%, 81–89%, ≤80%) of NEAT can be explored.

Additional keywords: 4-h rule.


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