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Delays in triage processes in the emergency department (ED) can compromise patient safety. The aim of this study was to provide proof-of-concept that a self-check-in kiosk could decrease the time needed to identify ambulatory patients arriving in the ED. We compared the use of a novel automated self-check-in kiosk to identify patients on ED arrival to routine nurse-initiated patient identification.
We performed a prospective trail with random weekly allocation to intervention or control processes during a 10-week study period. During intervention weeks, patients used a self-check-in kiosk to self-identify on arrival. This electronically alerted triage nurses to patient arrival times and primary complaint before triage. During control weeks, kiosks were unavailable and patients were identified using routine nurse-initiated triage. The primary outcome was time-to-first-identification, defined as the interval between ED arrival and identification in the hospital system.
Median (interquartile range) time-to-first-identification was 1.4 minutes (1.0–2.08) for intervention patients and 9 minutes (5–18) for control patients. Regression analysis revealed that the adjusted time-to-first-identification was 13.6 minutes (95% confidence interval 12.8–14.5) faster for the intervention group.
A self-check-in kiosk significantly reduced the time-to-first-identification for ambulatory patients arriving in the ED.
Patients with cardiovascular diseases are common in the emergency department (ED), and continuity of care following that visit is needed to ensure that they receive evidence-based diagnostic tests and therapy. We examined the frequency of follow-up care after discharge from an ED with a new diagnosis of one of three cardiovascular diseases.
We performed a retrospective cohort study of patients with a new diagnosis of heart failure, atrial fibrillation, or hypertension, who were discharged from 157 non-pediatric EDs in Ontario, Canada, between April 2007 and March 2014. We determined the frequency of follow-up care with a family physician, cardiologist, or internist within seven and 30 days, and assessed the association of patient, emergency physician, and family physician characteristics with obtaining follow-up care using cause-specific hazard modeling.
There were 41,485 qualifying ED visits. Just under half (47.0%) had follow-up care within seven days, with 78.7% seen by 30 days. Patients with serious comorbidities (renal failure, dementia, COPD, stroke, coronary artery disease, and cancer) had a lower adjusted hazard of obtaining 7-day follow-up care (HRs 0.77-0.95) and 30-day follow-up care (HR 0.76-0.95). The only emergency physician characteristic associated with follow-up care was 5-year emergency medicine specialty training (HR 1.11). Compared to those whose family physician was remunerated via a primarily fee-for-service model, patients were less likely to obtain 7-day follow-up care if their family physician was remunerated via three types of capitation models (HR 0.72, 0.81, 0.85) or via traditional fee-for-service (HR 0.91). Findings were similar for 30-day follow-up care.
Only half of patients discharged from an ED with a new diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, heart failure, and hypertension were seen within a week of being discharged. Patients with significant comorbidities were less likely to obtain follow-up care, as were those with a family physician who was remunerated via primarily capitation methods.
We conducted a program of research to derive and test the reliability of a clinical prediction rule to identify high-risk older adults using paramedics’ observations.
We developed the Paramedics assessing Elders at Risk of Independence Loss (PERIL) checklist of 43 yes or no questions, including the Identifying Seniors at Risk (ISAR) tool items. We trained 1,185 paramedics from three Ontario services to use this checklist, and assessed inter-observer reliability in a convenience sample. The primary outcome, return to the ED, hospitalization, or death within one month was assessed using provincial databases. We derived a prediction rule using multivariable logistic regression.
We enrolled 1,065 subjects, of which 764 (71.7%) had complete data. Inter-observer reliability was good or excellent for 40/43 questions. We derived a four-item rule: 1) “Problems in the home contributing to adverse outcomes?” (OR 1.43); 2) “Called 911 in the last 30 days?” (OR 1.72); 3) male (OR 1.38) and 4) lacks social support (OR 1.4). The PERIL rule performed better than a proxy measure of clinical judgment (AUC 0.62 vs. 0.56, p=0.02) and adherence was better for PERIL than for ISAR.
The four-item PERIL rule has good inter-observer reliability and adherence, and had advantages compared to a proxy measure of clinical judgment. The ISAR is an acceptable alternative, but adherence may be lower. If future research validates the PERIL rule, it could be used by emergency physicians and paramedic services to target preventative interventions for seniors identified as high-risk.
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.
Recently, many Canadian emergency departments (EDs) have struggled with physician staffing shortages. In 2006, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care funded a brief “emergency medicine primer” (EMP) course for family physicians to upgrade or refresh skills, with the goal of increasing their ED work intensity. We sought to determine the effect of the EMP on the ED work intensity of family physicians.
A retrospective longitudinal study was conducted of the ED work of 239 family physicians in the 2 years before and after a minimum of 6 months and up to 2 years from completing an EMP course in 2006 to 2008 compared to non-EMP physicians. ED work intensity was defined as the number of ED shifts per month and the number of ED patients seen per month. We conducted two analyses: a before and after comparison of all EMP physicians and a matched cohort analysis matching each EMP physician to four non-EMP physicians on sex, year of medical school graduation, rurality, and pre-EMP ED work intensity.
Postcourse, EMP physicians worked 0.5 more ED shifts per month (13% increase, p = 0.027). Compared to their matched controls, EMP physicians worked 0.7 more shifts per month (13% increase, p = 0.0032) and saw 15 more patients per month (17% increase, p = 0.0008) compared to matched non-EMP physicians. The greatest increases were among EMP physicians who were younger, were urban, had previous ED experience, or worked in a high-volume ED. The effect of the EMP course was negligible for physicians with no previous ED experience or working in rural areas.
The EMP course is associated with modest increases in ED work intensity among some family physicians, in particular younger physicians in urban areas. No increase was seen among physicians without previous ED experience or working in rural areas.
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.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a benchmark door-to-electrocardiogram (ECG) time of 10 minutes for acute myocardial infarction patients, but this is based on expert opinion (level of evidence C). We sought to establish an evidence-based benchmark door-to-ECG time.
This retrospective cohort study used a population-based sample of patients who suffered an ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) in Ontario between 1999 and 2001. Using cubic smoothing splines, we described (1) the relationship between door-to-ECG time and ECG-to-needle time and (2) the proportion of STEMI patients who met the benchmark door-to-needle time of 30 minutes based on their door-to-ECG time. We hypothesized nonlinear relationships and sought to identify an inflection point in the latter curve that would define the most efficient (benefit the greatest number of patients) door-to-ECG time.
In 2,961 STEMI patients, the median door-to-ECG and ECG-to-needle times were 8.0 and 27.0 minutes, respectively. There was a linear increase in ECG-to-needle time as the door-to-ECG time increased, up to approximately 30 minutes, after which the ECG-to-needle time remained constant at 53 minutes. The inflection point in the probability of achieving the benchmark door-to-needle time occurred at 4 minutes, after which it decreased linearly, with every minute of door-to-ECG time decreasing the average probability of achievement by 2.2%.
Hospitals that are not meeting benchmark reperfusion times may improve performance by decreasing door-to-ECG times, even if they are meeting the current AHA benchmark door-to-ECG time. The highest probability of meeting the reperfusion target time for fibrinolytic administration is associated with a door-to-ECG time of 4 minutes or less.
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.
Current guidelines suggest that most patients who present to an emergency department (ED) with chest pain should be placed on a continuous electrocardiographic monitoring (CEM) device. We surveyed emergency physicians to determine their perception of current occupancy rates of CEM and to assess their attitudes toward prescribing monitors for low-risk chest pain patients in the ED.
We conducted a cross-sectional, self-administered Internet and mail survey of a random sample of 300 members of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians. Main outcome measures included the perceived frequency of fully occupied monitors in the ED and physicians' willingness to forgo CEM in certain chest pain patients.
The response rate was 66% (199 respondents). The largest group of respondents (43%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 36%–50%) indicated that monitors were fully occupied 90%–100% of the time during their most recent ED shift. When asked how often they were forced to choose a patient for monitor removal because of the limited number of monitors, 52% (95% CI 45%–60%) of respondents selected 1–3 times per shift. Ninety percent (95% CI 84%–93%) of respondents indicated that they would forgo CEM in certain cardiac chest pain patients if there was good evidence that the risk of a monitor-detected adverse event was very low.
Emergency physicians report that monitors are often fully occupied in Canadian EDs, and most are willing to forgo CEM in certain chest pain patients. A large prospective study of CEM in low-risk chest pain patients is warranted.
In February 2007, the Health Council of Canada, in its third annual report, emphasized the need for pan-Canadian data on our health care system. To date, no studies have examined the strengths and weaknesses of emergency health services (EHS) administrative databases, as perceived by researchers. We undertook a qualitative study to determine, from a researcher's perspective, the strengths and weaknesses of EHS administrative databases. The study also elicited researchers' suggestions to improve these databases.
We conducted taped interviews with 4 Canadian health services researchers. The transcriptions were subsequently examined for common concepts, which were finalized after discussion with all the investigators.
Five common themes emerged from the interviews: clinical detail, data quality, data linkage, data use and population coverage. Data use and data linkages were considered strengths. Clinical detail, data quality and population coverage were considered weaknesses.
The 5 themes that emerged from this study all serve to reinforce the call from the Health Council of Canada for national data on emergency services, which could be readily captured through a national EHS administrative database. We feel that key stakeholders involved in emergency services across Canada should work together to develop a strategy to implement an accurate, clinically detailed, integrated and comprehensive national EHS database.
There is a paucity of population-based research on health service utilization related to penetrating trauma in Canada, even though such trauma can result in serious injury or death, and gunshot wounds have been labelled the “the new public health issue.” Complete epidemiologic data, including emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations, for penetrating trauma is not available. The objective of this paper is to describe the epidemiology of ED visits for firearm-related and knife-related penetrating trauma in one Canadian province.
All EDs in the province of Ontario (pop. approx. 12 400 000 at the time of the study) submit data on ED visits to the National Ambulatory Care Reporting System. This database includes patients' demographic information (i.e., age, sex and geographic area of residence), the reason for the visit, disposition (i.e., admitted to hospital or sent home), and other diagnostic information. For visits related to injuries, the cause of injury is also reported (e-codes according to the Canadian Enhancement to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th rev [ICD-10-CA]). All patients seen in Ontario EDs for an injury related to a firearm, knife, or sharp object, were included in our study.
Of the 1.2 million ED visits in 2002-03 for trauma in Ontario, 40 240 (3.4%) patients were treated for injuries relating to penetrating trauma. Most patients were male, and most were 15–24 years of age. Penetrating trauma was frequently a result of knives or sharp objects (39 654 visits or 98.5%); only 1.5% (n = 586) of these injuries were caused by firearms. Of those hospitalized, 151 were related to firearms and 1455 were related to knives/ sharp objects.
Analyzing administrative data provides an estimate of the impact of penetrating trauma on a population, thereby providing prevention programs with data upon which to design their strategies. Evidence-based prevention strategies are needed to reduce the burden of penetrating trauma. Monitoring ED and hospitalization data over time will help to assess trends and provide evidence for the effectiveness of such strategies.
The purpose of this report is to examine Ontario's geographic variation in emergency department (ED) visits for conditions that may be treated in alternative primary care settings. We studied all visits to Ontario EDs in 2002/03 and calculated county-specific age-standardized rates. Overall in Ontario, there were 3174 ED visits per 100 000 population aged 1-74 for conditions that could be treated in alternate primary care settings, but rates varied widely across counties. They were higher in rural counties with rates up to 7-fold higher than the provincial average. Urban counties had lower rates, some were less than one-third of the provincial average. Further research is needed to determine the relationship between ED utilization and primary care capacity.
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.
To develop an operational definition and a parsimonious list of postulated determinants for urban emergency department (ED) overcrowding.
A panel was formed from clinical and administrative experts in pre-hospital, ED and hospital domains. Key studies and reports were reviewed in advance by panel members, an experienced health services researcher facilitated the panel’s discussions, and a formal content analysis of audiotaped recordings was conducted.
The panel considered community, patient, ED and hospital determinants of overcrowding. Of 46 factors postulated in the literature, 21 were not retained by the experts as potentially important determinants of overcrowding. Factors not retained included access to primary care services and seasonal influenza outbreaks. Key determinants retained included admitted patients awaiting beds and patient characteristics. Ambulance diversion was considered to be an appropriate operational definition and proxy measure of ED overcrowding.
These results help to clarify the conceptual framework around ED overcrowding, and may provide a guide for future research. The relative importance of the determinants must be assessed by prospective studies.