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Emergency department (ED) throughput efficiency is largely dependent on staffing and process, and many operational interventions to increase throughput have been described.
We systematically searched Medline, Embase, CINAHL, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials to find studies describing the impact of throughput strategies on ED length of stay and left without being seen rates. Two independent reviewers screened studies, evaluated quality and risk of bias, and stratified eligible studies by intervention type. We assessed statistical heterogeneity using the chi-squared statistic and the I-squared (I2) statistic, and pooled results where appropriate. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were followed.
Ninety-four (94) studies met inclusion criteria (Cohen's k = 0.7). Most were observational, five were determined to be low quality (Cohen's k = 0.6), and almost all reported modest reductions in length of stay and left without being seen rates, although there was substantial variability within and between intervention types. Fast track and patient streaming interventions showed the most consistent reduction in length of stay and left without being seenrates. Shifting high-level providers to triage appears effective and generally cost neutral. Evidence for enhanced testing strategies and alternative staffing models was less compelling.
Introducing a fast track and optimizing processes for important case-mix groups will likely enhance throughput efficiency. Expediting diagnostic and treatment decisions by shifting physician-patient contact to the earliest possible process point (e.g., triage) is an effective cost-neutral strategy to increase flow. Focusing ED staff on operational improvement is likely to improve performance, regardless of the intervention type.
Opioid use disorder is a major public health crisis, and evidence suggests ways of better serving patients who live with opioid use disorder in the emergency department (ED). A multi-disciplinary team developed a quality improvement project to implement this evidence.
The intervention was developed by an expert working group consisting of specialists and stakeholders. The group set goals of increasing prescribing of buprenorphine/naloxone and providing next day walk-in referrals to opioid use disorder treatment clinics. From May to September 2018, three Alberta ED sites and three opioid use disorder treatment clinics worked together to trial the intervention. We used administrative data to track the number of ED visits where patients were given buprenorphine/naloxone. Monthly ED prescribing rates before and after the intervention were considered and compared with eight nonintervention sites. We considered whether patients continued to fill opioid agonist treatment prescriptions at 30, 60, and 90 days after their index ED visit to measure continuity in treatment.
The intervention sites increased their prescribing of buprenorphine/naloxone during the intervention period and prescribed more buprenorphine/naloxone than the controls. Thirty-five of 47 patients (74.4%) discharged from the ED with buprenorphine/naloxone continued to fill opioid agonist treatment prescriptions 30 days and 60 days after their index ED visit. Thirty-four patients (72.3%) filled prescriptions at 90 days.
Emergency clinicians can effectively initiate patients on buprenorphine/naloxone when supports for this standardized evidence-based care are in place within their practice setting and timely follow-up in community is available.
Non-medical cannabis recently became legal for adults in Canada. Legalization provides opportunity to investigate the public health effects of national cannabis legalization on presentations to emergency departments (EDs). Our study aimed to explore association between cannabis-related ED presentations, poison control and telemedicine calls, and cannabis legalization.
Data were collected from the National Ambulatory Care Reporting System from October 1, 2013, to July 31, 2019, for 14 urban Alberta EDs, from Alberta poison control, and from HealthLink, a public telehealth service covering all of Alberta. Visitation data were obtained to compare pre- and post-legalization periods. An interrupted time-series analysis accounting for existing trends was completed, in addition to the incidence rate ratio (IRR) and relative risk calculation (to evaluate changes in co-diagnoses).
Although only 3 of every 1,000 ED visits within the time period were attributed to cannabis, the number of cannabis-related ED presentations increased post-legalization by 3.1 (range -11.5 to 12.6) visits per ED per month (IRR 1.45, 95% confidence interval [CI]; 1.39, 1.51; absolute level change: 43.5 visits per month, 95% CI; 26.5, 60.4). Cannabis-related calls to poison control also increased (IRR 1.87, 95% CI; 1.55, 2.37; absolute level change: 4.0 calls per month, 95% CI; 0.1, 7.9). Lastly, we observed increases in cannabis-related hyperemesis, unintentional ingestion, and individuals leaving the ED pre-treatment. We also observed a decrease in co-ingestant use.
Overall, Canadian cannabis legalization was associated with small increases in urban Alberta cannabis-related ED visits and calls to a poison control centre.
Older patients with complex care needs and limited personal and social resources are heavy users of emergency department (ED) services and are often admitted when they present to the ED. Updated information is needed regarding the most effective strategies to appropriately avoid ED presentation and hospital admission among older patients.
This systematic review aimed to identify interventions that have demonstrated effectiveness in decreasing ED use and hospital admissions in older patients. We conducted a comprehensive literature search within Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials from database inception to July 2019 with no language restrictions. Interventional study designs conducted in populations of 65 years and older were included. Primary outcomes were ED visits and hospital admissions. Secondary outcomes included hospital readmission, mortality, cost, and patient-reported outcomes.
Of 7,943 citations reviewed for eligibility, 53 studies were included in our qualitative synthesis, including 26 randomized controlled trials (RCT), 8 cluster-RCTs, and 19 controlled before-after studies. Data characterization revealed that community-based strategies reduced ED visits, particularly those that included comprehensive geriatric assessments and home visits. These strategies reported decreases in mean ED use (for interventions versus controls) ranging from -0.12 to -1.32 visits/patient. Interventions that included home visits also showed reductions in hospital admissions ranging from -6% to -14%. There was, however, considerable variability across individual studies with respect to outcome reporting, statistical analyses, and risk of bias, which limited our ability to further quantify the effect of these interventions.
Various interventional strategies to avoid ED presentations and hospital admissions for older patients have been studied. While models of care that include comprehensive geriatric assessments and home visits may reduce acute care utilization, the standardization of outcome measures is needed to further delineate which parts of these complex interventions are contributing to efficacy. The potential effects of multidisciplinary team composition on patient outcomes also warrant further investigation.
Acutely painful osteoporotic vertebral compression fractures are associated with hospitalization and mortality in older adults. Calcitonin may be an alternative to opioid or nonopioid analgesia for treating acute compression fracture pain in emergency and primary care settings. This review summarizes pain, function, and adverse events associated with calcitonin.
We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, The Cochrane Library, clinical trials registries, and reference lists of included studies. Eligible studies evaluated the effect of synthetic calcitonins (salmon, eel, and human) on pain scores in adults ≥60 years old with a recent atraumatic compression fracture. Two reviewers screened studies, extracted data, and allocated bias in duplicate. A random effects meta-analysis evaluated standard mean difference (SMD) and heterogeneity (I2).
Of 1,198 articles screened, 11 were included (9 in the meta-analysis). Treatment lasted from 14 days to 6 months. Pain was lower in the salmon calcitonin group (100–200 IU IM or NAS, daily) than the control group with high certainty of evidence at week 1 (SMD, -1.54; 95% confidence interval [CI], -2.02 – -1.06; I2 = 52%), representing a number needed to treat of two. The analgesic efficacy of salmon calcitonin at 4 weeks was unclear due to substantial heterogeneity. There was low certainty evidence that calcitonin did not increase the overall risk of adverse events, including nausea and vomiting (risk ratio, 2.10; 95% CI, 0.87–5.08; I2 = 47%).
Calcitonin is beneficial and appears safe for treating acute pain associated with compression fractures. Further studies may improve the certainty of evidence.
The objective of the CAEP Global Emergency Medicine (EM) panel was to identify successes, challenges, and barriers to engaging in global health in Canadian academic emergency departments, formulate recommendations for increasing engagement of faculty, and guide departments in developing a Global EM program.
A panel of academic Global EM practitioners and residents met regularly via teleconference in the year leading up to the CAEP 2018 Academic Symposium. Recommendations were drafted based on a literature review, three mixed methods surveys (CAEP general members, Canadian Global EM practitioners, and Canadian academic emergency department leaders), and panel members’ experience. Recommendations were presented at the CAEP 2018 Academic Symposium in Calgary and further refined based on feedback from the Academic Section.
A total of nine recommendations are presented here. Seven of these are directed towards Canadian academic departments and divisions and intend to increase their engagement in Global EM by recognizing it as an integral part of the practice of emergency medicine, deliberately incorporating it into strategic plans, identifying local leaders, providing tangible supports (i.e., research, administration or financial support, shift flexibility), mitigating barriers, encouraging collaboration, and promoting academic deliverables. The final two recommendations pertain to CAEP increasing its own engagement and support of Global EM.
These recommendations serve as guidance for Canadian academic emergency departments and divisions to increase their engagement in Global EM.
Make recommendations on approaches to building and strengthening relationships between academic departments or divisions of Emergency Medicine and rural and regional emergency departments.
A panel of leaders from both rural and urban/academic practice environments met over 8 months. Draft recommendations were developed from panel expertise as well as survey data and presented at the 2018 Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP) Academic Symposium. Symposium feedback was incorporated into final recommendations.
Seven recommendations emerged and are summarized below:
1) CAEP should ensure engagement with other rural stakeholder organizations such as the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada.
2) Engagement efforts require adequate financial and manpower resources.
3) Training opportunities should be promoted.
4) The current operational interface between the academic department of Emergency Medicine and the emergency departments in the catchment area must be examined and gaps addressed as part of building and strengthening relationships.
5) Initial engagement efforts should be around projects with common value.
6) Academic Departments should partner with and support rural scholars.
7) Academic departments seeking to build or strengthen relationships should consider successful examples from elsewhere in the country as well as considering local culture and challenges.
These recommendations serve as guidance for building and strengthening mutually beneficial relationships between academic departments or divisions of Emergency Medicine and rural and regional emergency departments.
Quality Improvement and Patient Safety (QIPS) plays an important role in addressing shortcomings in optimal healthcare delivery. However, there is little published guidance available for emergency department (ED) teams with respect to developing their own QIPS programs. We sought to create recommendations for established and aspiring ED leaders to use as a pathway to better patient care through programmatic QIPS activities, starting internally and working towards interdepartmental collaboration.
An expert panel comprised of ten ED clinicians with QIPS and leadership expertise was established. A scoping review was conducted to identify published literature on establishing QIPS programs and frameworks in healthcare. Stakeholder consultations were conducted among Canadian healthcare leaders, and recommendations were drafted by the expert panel based on all the accumulated information. These were reviewed and refined at the 2018 CAEP Academic Symposium in Calgary using in-person and technologically-supported feedback.
Recommendations include: creating a sense of urgency for improvement; engaging relevant stakeholders and leaders; creating a formal local QIPS Committee; securing funding and resources; obtaining local data to guide the work; supporting QIPS training for team members; encouraging interprofessional, cross-departmental, and patient collaborations; using an established QIPS framework to guide the work; developing reward mechanisms and incentive structures; and considering to start small by focusing on a project rather than a program.
A list of 10 recommendations is presented as guiding principles for the establishment and sustainable deployment of QIPS activities in EDs throughout Canada and abroad. ED leaders are encouraged to implement our recommendations in an effort to improve patient care.
Emergency department (ED) and hospital overcrowding cause offload delays that remove emergency medical services (EMS) crews from service and compromise care delivery. Prolonged ED boarding and delays to inpatient care are associated with increased hospital length of stay (LOS) and patient mortality, but the effects of EMS offload delays have not been well studied.
We used administrative data to study all high-acuity Canadian Triage Acuity Scale 2–3 EMS arrivals to Calgary adult EDs from July 2013 to June 2016. Patients offloaded to a care space within 15 minutes were considered controls, whereas those delayed ≥ 60 minutes were considered “delayed.” Propensity matching was used to create comparable control and delayed cohorts. The primary outcome was 7-day mortality. Secondary outcomes included hospital LOS and 30-day mortality.
Of 162,002 high-acuity arrivals, 70,711 had offload delays <15 minutes and 41,032 had delays > 60 minutes. Delayed patients were more likely to be female, older, to have lower triage acuity, to live in dependent living situations, and to arrive on weekdays and day or evening hours. Delayed patients less often required admission and, when admitted, were more likely to go to the hospitalist service. Main outcomes were similar for propensity-matched control and delayed cohorts, although delayed patients experienced longer ED LOS and slightly lower 7-day mortality rates.
In this setting, high-acuity EMS arrivals exposed to offload delays did not have prolonged hospital LOS or higher mortality than comparable patients who received timely access.
Oral anticoagulation (OAC) reduces stroke risk in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) or atrial flutter (AFL). However, OAC initiation rates in patients discharged directly from the emergency department (ED) are low. We aimed to address this care gap by implementing a quality improvement intervention.
The study was performed in four Canadian urban EDs between 2015 and 2016. Patients were included if they had an electrocardiogram (ECG) documenting AF/AFL in the ED, were directly discharged from the ED, and were alive after 90 days. Baseline rates of OAC initiation were determined prior to the intervention. Between June and December 2016, we implemented our intervention in two EDs (ED-intervention), with the remaining sites acting as controls (ED-control). The intervention included a reminder statement prompting OAC initiation according to guideline recommendations, manually added to ECGs with a preliminary interpretation of AF/AFL, along with a decision-support algorithm that included a referral sheet. The primary outcome was the rate of OAC initiation within 90 days of the ED visit.
Prior to the intervention, 37.2% OAC-naïve patients with ECG-documented AF/AFL were initiated on OAC. Following implementation of the intervention, the rate of OAC initiation increased from 38.6% to 47.5% (absolute increase of 8.5%; 95% CI, 0.3% to 16.7%, p=0.04) among the ED-intervention sites, whereas the rate remained unchanged in ED-control sites (35.3% to 35.9%, p=0.9).
Implementation of a quality improvement intervention consisting of a reminder and decision-support tool increased initiation of OAC in high-risk patients. This support package can be readily implemented in other jurisdictions to improve OAC rates for AF/AFL.
Sex-specific diagnostic cut-offs may improve the test characteristics of high-sensitivity troponin assays for the diagnosis of myocardial infarction (MI). The objective of this study was to quantify test characteristics of sex-specific cut-offs of a single, high-sensitivity cardiac troponin T (hs-cTnT) assay for 7-day MI in patients with chest pain.
This observational cohort study included consecutive emergency department (ED) patients with suspected cardiac chest pain from four Canadian EDs who had an hs-cTnT assay performed within 60 minutes of ED arrival. The primary outcome was MI at 7 days. We quantified test characteristics (sensitivity, negative predictive value [NPV], likelihood ratios and proportion of patients ruled out) for multiple combinations of sex-specific, rule-out cut-offs. We calculated the net reclassification index compared to universal rule-out cut-offs.
In 7,130 patients (3,931 men and 3,199 women), the 7-day MI incidence was 7.38% among men and 3.78% among women. Optimal sex-specific cut-offs (<8 ng/L for men and <7 ng/L for women) had a 98.5% sensitivity for MI and ruled out MI in 55.8% of patients. This would enable an absolute increase in the proportion of patients who were able to be ruled out with a single hs-cTnT of 13.2% to 22.2%, depending on the universal rule-out concentration used as a comparator.
Sex-specific hs-cTnT cut-offs for ruling out MI at ED arrival may improve classification performance, enabling more patients to be safely ruled out at ED arrival. However, differences between sex-specific and universal cut-off concentrations are within the variation of the assay, limiting the clinical utility of this approach. These findings should be confirmed in other data sets.
Does the addition of topical tranexamic acid to anterior nasal packing decrease bleeding in patients with epistaxis who are taking antiplatelet medications?
Zahed R, Jayazeri M, Naderi A, et al. Topical tranexamic acid compared with anterior nasal packing for treatment of epistaxis in patients taking antiplatelet drugs: randomized controlled trial. Acad Emerg Med 2018;25(3):261-6.
The primary outcome of this randomized controlled trial was the percentage of patients whose epistaxis had stopped at 10 minutes from the time of intervention. Secondary outcomes included the frequency of epistaxis recurrence at both 24 hours and 7 days, emergency department length of stay, and patient satisfaction.