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Physician variation in the use of computed tomography (CT) is concerning due to the risks of ionizing radiation, cost, and downstream effects of unnecessary testing. The objectives of this study were to describe variation in CT-ordering rates among emergency physicians (EPs), to measure correlation between perceived and actual CT-ordering rates, to assess attitudes that influence decisions to order imaging tests, and to identify EP attitudes associated with higher CT utilization.
This study was a retrospective review of imaging and administrative billing records at two emergency department sites of a tertiary care adult teaching hospital. The study also included a cross-sectional survey of EPs at this hospital. We asked physicians about their perceived ordering behaviour, and what factors influenced their decision to order a CT. We examined correlations between perceived and actual CT-ordering rates. We adjusted ordering rates for shift distribution using a logistic regression model and identified outlier physicians whose ordering rate was significantly lower or higher than expected. We used multivariable regression analysis to determine which survey responses predicted higher CT utilization.
During the study period, 59 EPs saw 45,854 patients, and ordered 6,609 CTs — a mean ordering rate of 14.4% (standard deviation (SD)=4.3%). The ordering rate for individual physicians ranged from 5.9% to 25.9%. Of the 59 EPs, 13 EPs were low-ordering outliers; 12 were high-ordering outliers. Forty-five EPs (76.3%) completed the survey. Mean perceived ordering rate was 12.6%, and was weakly correlated with actual ordering (r=0.19, p=0.21). 42 EPs (93.3%) believed they ordered “about the same” or “fewer” CTs than their peers. Of the 17 EPs in the two highest ordering quintiles, only 3 (18%) knew they were high orderers. In the multivariable analysis, higher ordering was associated with increasing strength of response to the following predictors: medico-legal risk (relative risk [RR]=1.18, 95% CI: 1.03–1.21), risk of contrast (RR=1.14, 95% CI: 1.07–1.22), what colleagues would do (RR=1.09, 95% CI: 0.99–1.19), risk of missing a diagnosis (RR=1.08, 95% CI: 0.98–1.21), and patient wishes (RR=1.07, 95% CI: 0.97–1.17).
There is large variation in CT ordering among EPs. Physicians’ self-reported ordering rate correlates poorly with actual ordering. High CT orderers were rarely aware that they ordered more than their colleagues. Higher rates of ordering were observed among physicians who reported increased concern with 1) risk of missing a diagnosis, 2) medico-legal risk, 3) risk of contrast, 4) patient wishes, and 5) what colleagues would do.
In 2008–2009, the Canadian Institute for Health Information reported over 30,000 cases of sepsis hospitalizations in Canada, an increase of almost 4,000 from 2005. Mortality rates from severe sepsis and septic shock continue to remain greater than 30% in Canada and are significantly higher than other critical conditions treated in the emergency department (ED). Our group formed a multidisciplinary sepsis committee, conducted an ED process of care analysis, and developed a quality improvement protocol. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of this sepsis management bundle on patient mortality.
This before and after study was conducted in two large Canadian tertiary care EDs and included adult patients with suspected severe infection that met at least two systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) criteria. We studied the implementation of a sepsis bundle including triage flagging, RN medical directive, education campaign, and a modified sepsis protocol. The primary outcomes were 30-day all-cause mortality and sepsis protocol use.
We included a total of 167 and 185 patients in the pre- and post-intervention analysis, respectively. Compared to the pre-intervention group, mortality was significantly lower in the post-intervention group (30.7% versus 17.3%; absolute difference, 13.4%; 95% CI 9.8–17.0; p=0.006). There was also a higher rate of sepsis protocol use in the post-intervention group (20.3% versus 80.5%, absolute difference 60.2%; 95% CI 55.1–65.3; p<0.001). Additionally, we found shorter time-intervals from triage to MD assessment, fluid resuscitation, and antibiotic administration as well as lower rates of vasopressor requirements and ICU admission.
The implementation of our multidisciplinary ED sepsis bundle, including improved early identification and protocolized medical care, was associated with improved time to achieve key therapeutic interventions and a reduction in 30-day mortality. Similar low-cost initiatives could be implemented in other EDs to potentially improve outcomes for this high-risk group of patients.
We surveyed Canadian emergency physicians to determine how skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) are managed and which risk factors were felt to be important in predicting failure with oral antibiotics.
We performed an electronic survey of physician members of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP) using the modified Dillman method.
The survey response rate was 36.9% (n=391) amongst CAEP members. There was a lack of consensus regarding management of SSTIs. CAEP respondents identified 14 risk factors for predicting treatment failure with oral antibiotics, including hypotension, tachypnea, and patient reported severity of pain >8 of 10.
The survey demonstrates significant variability regarding physician management of SSTIs, and we have identified several perceived risk factors for treatment failure with oral antibiotics that should be assessed in future studies.
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