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Because abnormal vital signs indicate the potential for clinical deterioration, it is logical to make emergency physicians immediately aware of those patients who present with abnormal vital signs.
To determine if a clinical triggers program in the emergency department (ED) setting that utilized predetermined abnormal vital signs to activate a rapid assessment by an emergency physician-led multidisciplinary team had a measurable effect on inpatient hospital metrics.
The study design was a retrospective pre and post intervention study. The intervention was the implementation of an ED clinical “triggers” program. Abnormal vital sign criteria that warranted a trigger response included: heart rate <40 beats/minute or>130 beats/minutes, respiratory rate <8 breaths/minute or>30 breaths/minute, systolic blood pressure <90 mm Hg, or oxygen saturation <90% on room air. The primary outcome investigated was the median days admitted with secondary outcomes of median days in special care unit, in-hospital 30-day mortality and proportion of patients who required an upgrade in inpatient care level.
There was no difference in median days admitted for inpatient care (3.8 v. 4.0 days, p=0.21) or median days spent in a special care unit (5.0 v. 5.6 days, p=0.42) between the groups. There was no difference in the percentage of in-hospital patient deaths (6.0% v. 5.6%, p=0.66) or frequency of upgrade in level of care within 24 hours (4.9% v. 4.0%, p=0.52).
In our study, the implementation of an ED clinical triggers program did not result in a significant change in measured inpatient outcomes.
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