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Emergency department (ED) crowding is associated with adverse outcomes. Several jurisdictions have established benchmarks and targets for length-of-stay (LOS) to reduce crowding. An evaluation has been conducted on whether performance on Ontario’s ED LOS benchmarks is associated with reduced risk of death or hospitalization.
A retrospective cohort study of discharged ED patients was conducted using population-based administrative data from Ontario (April 2008 to February 2012). For each ED visit, the proportion of patients seen during the same shift that met ED LOS benchmarks was determined. Performance was categorized as <80%, 80% to <90%, 90% to <95%, and 95%–100% of same-shift ED patients meeting the benchmark. Logistic regression models analysed the association between performance on ED LOS benchmarks and 7-day death or hospitalization, controlled for patient and ED characteristics and stratified by patient acuity.
From 122 EDs, 2,295,256 high-acuity and 1,626,629 low-acuity visits resulting in discharge were included. Deaths and hospitalizations within 7 days totalled 1,429 (0.062%) and 49,771 (2.2%) among high-acuity, and 220 (0.014%) and 9,005 (0.55%) among low-acuity patients, respectively. Adverse outcomes generally increased among patients seen during shifts when a lower proportion of ED patients met ED LOS benchmarks. The adjusted odds ratios (and 95% confidence intervals) among high- and low-acuity patients seen on shifts when <80% met ED benchmarks (compared with ≥95%) were, respectively, 1.32 (1.05–1.67) and 1.84 (1.21–2.81) for death, and 1.13 (1.08–1.17) and 1.40 (1.31–1.49) for hospitalization.
Better performance on Ontario’s ED LOS benchmarks for each shift is associated with a 10%–45% relative reduction in the odds of death or admission 7 days after ED discharge.
Low socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with adverse health outcomes. Possible explanations include differences in health status, access to health care, and care provided by clinicians. We sought to determine whether SES is associated with computed tomography (CT) use in the emergency department (ED).
A retrospective cohort study of all Ontario ED patients (April 1, 2009, to March 31, 2010) using administrative databases was conducted, and patients were stratified into SES quintiles based on median neighbourhood income. Using multivariate logistical regression, CT scan use within SES quintiles was compared for all patients and subgroups based on chief complaints: headache, abdominal pain, and complex abdominal pain (age ≥ 65 years, high acuity, and admittance to hospital).
We analyzed 4,551,101 patient visits, of which 52% were female. Overall, 8.2% underwent CT scanning. In adjusted analyses, the lowest SES patients were less likely to undergo CT scanning overall and in all clinical subgroups, except for complex abdominal pain. Compared to the lowest SES quintile, the adjusted odds ratios of CT scanning in the highest SES quintile were 1.08 (95% CI 1.07–1.09), 1.28 (95%CI 1.22–1.34), and 1.24 (95% CI 1.21–1.27) for all patients, headache pain patients, and abdominal pain patients, respectively. For patients presenting with complex abdominal pain, no significant difference in CT use was observed.
Lowest SES ED patients were less likely to receive CT scans overall and in headache and abdominal pain subgroups. No difference was seen among complex abdominal pain patients, suggesting that as clinical indications for the test become more clearcut, use across SES quintiles differs less.
In Ontario, clinical decision units (CDUs) were implemented as a pilot project in 2008 by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care as part of its strategy to reduce emergency department (ED) waiting times. Our objective was to describe general characteristics of the program at each of the participating sites and to examine barriers and facilitators to integrating CDUs into practice.
On-site small-group interviews were conducted in two phases with ED and hospital staff at participating sites, first at 8 to 12 weeks and again at 12 months postimplementation. Interview data were analyzed using the framework approach. Unstructured field notes and CDU clinical care protocols and documentation were also reviewed.
The qualitative analysis identified 10 key themes related to integrating CDUs into EDs: shift in clinical and operational practice; administrative aspects of implementation; team building and stakeholder involvement; use of clinical care protocols; physical or virtual model of care; responsive ancillary services; involvement of specialist services; coordination with hospital and community supports; appropriate use of the CDU; and ongoing evaluation and monitoring. Each theme represents an important insight from the perspective of clinical and administrative staff at participating sites.
The implementation of CDUs is a complex process, with no single preferred clinical care or operational model. This study identifies a number of key considerations relevant to the future implementation of CDUs.
The evaluation of emergency department (ED) quality of care is hampered by the absence of consensus on appropriate measures. We sought to develop a consensus on a prioritized and parsimonious set of evidence-based quality of care indicators for EDs.
The process was led by a nationally representative steering committee and expert panel (representatives from hospital administration, emergency medicine, health information, government, and provincial quality councils). A comprehensive review of the scientific literature was conducted to identify candidate indicators. The expert panel reviewed candidate indicators in a modified Delphi panel process using electronic surveys; final decisions on inclusion of indicators were made by the steering committee in a guided nominal group process with facilitated discussion. Indicators in the final set were ranked based on their priority for measurement. A gap analysis identified areas where future indicator development is needed. A feasibility study of measuring the final set of indicators using current Canadian administrative databases was conducted.
A total of 170 candidate indicators were generated from the literature; these were assessed based on scientific soundness and their relevance or importance. Using predefined scoring criteria in two rounds of surveys, indicators were coded as “retained” (53), “discarded” (78), or “borderline” (39). A final set of 48 retained indicators was selected and grouped in nine categories (patient satisfaction, ED operations, patient safety, pain management, pediatrics, cardiac conditions, respiratory conditions, stroke, and sepsis or infection). Gap analysis suggested the need for new indicators in patient satisfaction, a healthy workplace, mental health and addiction, elder care, and community-hospital integration. Feasibility analysis found that 13 of 48 indicators (27%) can be measured using existing national administrative databases.
A broadly representative modified Delphi panel process resulted in a consensus on a set of 48 evidencebased quality of care indicators for EDs. Future work is required to generate technical definitions to enable the uptake of these indicators to support benchmarking, quality improvement, and accountability efforts.
Timely reperfusion therapy for ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) is an important determinant of outcome, yet targets for time to treatment are frequently unmet in North America. Prehospital strategies can reduce time to reperfusion. We sought to determine the extent to which emergency medical services (EMS) use these strategies in Canada.
We carried out a cross-sectional survey in 2007 of ground EMS operators in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. We focused on the use of 4 prehospital strategies: 1) 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG), 2) routine expedited emergency department (ED) transfer of STEMI patients (from a referring ED to a percutaneous coronary intervention [PCI] centre), 3) prehospital bypass (ambulance bypass of local EDs to transport patients directly to PCI centres) and 4) prehospital fibrinolysis.
Ninety-seven ambulance operators were surveyed, representing 15 681 paramedics serving 97% of the combined provincial populations. Of the operators surveyed, 68% (95% confidence interval [CI] 59%–77%) had ambulances equipped with 12-lead ECGs, ranging from 40% in Quebec to 100% in Alberta and Nova Scotia. Overall, 47% (95% CI 46%-48%) of paramedics were trained in ECG acquisition and 40% (95% CI 39%–41%) were trained in ECG interpretation. Only 18% (95% CI 10%–25%) of operators had prehospital bypass protocols; 45% (95% CI 35%–55%) had protocols for expedited ED transfer. Prehospital fibrinolysis was available only in Alberta. All EMS operators in British Columbia, Alberta and Nova Scotia used at least 1 of the 4 prehospital strategies, and one-third of operators in Ontario and Quebec used 0 of 4. In major urban centres, at least 1 of the 3 prehospital strategies 12-lead ECG acquisition, bypass or expedited transfer was used, but there was considerable variation within and across provinces.
The implementation of widely recommended prehospital STEMI strategies varies substantially across the 5 provinces studied, and relatively simple existing technologies, such as prehospital ECGs, are underused in many regions. Substantial improvements in prehospital services and better integration with hospital-based care will be necessary in many regions of Canada if optimal times to reperfusion, and associated outcomes, are to be achieved.
Difficulty maintaining physician staffing in emergency departments (EDs) prompted the government of Ontario to offer alternate funding arrangements (AFAs) to replace fee-for-service remuneration for physicians working in EDs.
To analyze the effect of AFAs on physician staffing and practice patterns.
We obtained Ontario Health Insurance Program fee-for-service and shadow-billing records for all physician services provided in EDs one year before and one year after implementation of an ED AFA. Only sites with reliable billing data were retained. Physicians were assigned to small/rural, community or teaching hospital groups based on their billing claims. For each hospital type, and all hospitals combined, we compared the pre- and post-AFA periods in terms of the number of physicians working regularly in the ED and their workload. As a possible unintended consequence of AFAs, we also compared physicians' involvement in primary care.
Overall, 76.2% of eligible hospitals adopted an ED AFA, of which 49 (42.6%) were included in our study (16 small/rural, 27 community and 6 teaching hospitals). In the post-AFA period, the number of physicians working in EDs increased by 7, from 674 to 681, representing a 1.0% increase overall in the workforce (p = 0.84). The change varied by hospital type, from a 5.8% increase in teaching hospitals to a 2.2% decrease in community hospitals, though none was significant. In the post-AFA period, the number of physicians working a moderate number of days per month increased from 190 to 214, representing a 3.2% absolute increase (p = 0.39), and the number working few (<5) or many (>10) days per month decreased. Post-AFA, the number of physicians working in EDs who also provided primary care services decreased by 1.7%, from 544 to 535 (p = 0.10).
Emergency department AFAs have been widely adopted in Ontario, but have not been associated with substantial changes in the overall physician workforce in EDs. However, trends toward increased physician numbers were seen in small/rural and teaching hospitals. There was little evidence of any adverse effects on the provision of primary care services by physicians.
The laryngeal mask airway (LMA™ airway) provides adequate ventilation and offers a suitable alternative for airway management in patients with cardiac arrest if primary care paramedics do not have intubation skills or are unable to intubate. Training in the use of the LMA usually occurs in the operating room.
To describe the use of the LMA by paramedics in prehospital adult non-traumatic cardiac arrest patients after classroom mannequin training. The study took place in a suburban rural emergency medical service.
This is a 2-phase observational study of the effect of paramedic training for LMA insertion using a mannequin and the success rate in the prehospital setting. All paramedics successfully completed classroom mannequin training. All subsequent prehospital adult non-traumatic cardiac arrest patients from mid-February 1999 to Mar. 31, 2000, were eligible. Subjective assessment of chest expansion, ease of ventilation and auscultation defined adequacy of ventilation. Data collected included the number of insertion attempts, reasons for failure, ease of insertion, adverse events and reasons for not attempting intubation. Statistical analysis comprised descriptive frequencies, chi-squared tests for comparison of categorical variables and analysis of variance for continuous variables.
208 paramedics (100%) successfully completed training. The mean number of attempts was 1, and only 4 (2.1%) paramedics required a second attempt with a mannequin. The paramedics’ perception of ease of use comparing the LMA with a bag valve mask (BVM) was evenly distributed across the 3 descriptors: 70 (39%) scored the LMA as easier to use, 57 (31%) as more difficult, and 54 (30%) stated there would be no difference. Of the 291 arrests during the study period, insertion of the LMA was attempted in 283 (97.3%) and was successful in 199 (70%) patients. The LMA became dislodged in 5 (2.5%) cases and was removed in 12 (6%) to clear vomit from the airway. The overall success rate was 182 (64%). The incidence of regurgitation prior to attempted insertion of the LMA was 28% (79 patients). Success rates did not vary significantly with the incidence of vomiting prior to insertion (p = 0.11). The majority of the paramedics evaluated LMA insertion as Very easy 49/220 (22.3%) or Easy 87/220 (39.6%). Paramedic evaluation of ease of use varied with success (p = 0.001).
This study reports a 100% training success rate with a mannequin and a 64% success with LMA insertion and ventilation in the field by paramedics among adult out-of-hospital non-traumatic cardiac arrest patients.
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