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-ECG’ in patients presenting with chest pain to an emergency department: a pilot retrospective observational study

James A. Hughes A B E , C. J. Cabilan A , Caitlin Young C and Andrew Staib A D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

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 James Cook University, 1 James Cook Drive, Townsville City, Qld 4811, Australia. Email: caitlin.young@my.jcu.edu.au

D School of Medicine, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.

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

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH16263
Submitted: 25 November 2016  Accepted: 1 February 2017   Published online: 9 May 2017

Abstract

Objectives The aim of this study was to assess the relationship between compliance with time-based Emergency Department (ED) targets (known as NEAT) and the time taken to collect an electrocardiogram (TTE) in patients presenting with chest pain.

Methods This was a pilot descriptive retrospective cohort study completed in a large inner city tertiary ED. Patients who presented with active or recent chest pain between July 2014 and June 2015 were eligible for inclusion. Pregnant patients, inter-hospital transfers, and traumatic chest pain were excluded. A random selection of 300 patients from the eligible cohort comprised the final sample. The differences of TTE between categories of NEAT compliance were compared using Kruskal-Wallis test. Also, the factors affecting with the acquisition of ECG within ten minutes of arrival were explored using proportional hazards regression.

Results There was a significant inverse association between the percentage of admitted patients leaving the ED within four hours (admitted NEAT) and TTE. As admitted NEAT compliance increased TTE decreased (p = 0.004). A number of variables including triage score, arrival time, total NEAT, first location, doctor wait time, and cardiac diagnosis were all significant predictors of TTE. After adjusting for other variables Admitted NEAT remained as an independent predictor of TTE.

Conclusion There is likely to be a relationship between NEAT and TTE that is reflective of overall hospital and not just ED functioning; however the exact relationship remains uncertain. Further study in a multisite study is warranted to further explore the relationship between NEAT, TTE and other important clinical metrics of ED performance.

What is known about the topic? The 4-h time target or National Emergency Access Target (NEAT) is implemented in Australia to ease crowding and access block. However, little is known of its effect on important clinical endpoints, particularly ‘time-to-ECG’ (TTE).

What does this paper add? This paper demonstrates a complex relationship between measures of time-based targets, such as time to ECG. It is likely that increasing compliance with admitted NEAT shortens TTE, demonstrating the effect of hospital functioning on the ability to deliver quality care in the emergency department.

What are the implications for practitioners? Emergency department flow has an effect on the ability of the department to deliver key assessment. There is a relationship between NEAT compliance and TTE, but the exact relationship requires further exploration in larger multicentre studies.


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