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Ann Emerg Med. 2018 Nov 20. pii: S0196-0644(18)31282-4. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2018.09.022. [Epub ahead of print]

Triage Performance in Emergency Medicine: A Systematic Review.

Author information

1
Department of Emergency Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Electronic address: hinson@jhmi.edu.
2
Department of Emergency Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD.
3
Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD.
4
Whiting School of Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.
5
Department of Emergency Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD; Whiting School of Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.

Abstract

STUDY OBJECTIVE:

Rapid growth in emergency department (ED) triage literature has been accompanied by diversity in study design, methodology, and outcome assessment. We aim to synthesize existing ED triage literature by using a framework that enables performance comparisons and benchmarking across triage systems, with respect to clinical outcomes and reliability.

METHODS:

PubMed, EMBASE, Scopus, and Web of Science were systematically searched for studies of adult ED triage systems through 2016. Studies evaluating triage systems with evidence of widespread adoption (Australian Triage Scale, Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale, Emergency Severity Index, Manchester Triage Scale, and South African Triage Scale) were cataloged and compared for performance in identifying patients at risk for mortality, critical illness and hospitalization, and interrater reliability. This study was performed and reported in adherence to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses guidelines.

RESULTS:

A total of 6,160 publications were identified, with 182 meeting eligibility criteria and 50 with sufficient data for inclusion in comparative analysis. The Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale (32 studies), Emergency Severity Index (43), and Manchester Triage Scale (38) were the most frequently studied triage scales, and all demonstrated similar performance. Most studies (6 of 8) reported high sensitivity (>90%) of triage scales for identifying patients with ED mortality as high acuity at triage. However, sensitivity was low (<80%) for identification of patients who had critical illness outcomes and those who died within days of the ED visit or during the index hospitalization. Sensitivity varied by critical illness and was lower for severe sepsis (36% to 74%), pulmonary embolism (54%), and non-ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (44% to 85%) compared with ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (56% to 92%) and general outcomes of ICU admission (58% to 100%) and lifesaving intervention (77% to 98%). Some proportion of hospitalized patients (3% to 45%) were triaged to low acuity (level 4 to 5) in all studies. Reliability measures (κ) were variable across evaluations, with only a minority (11 of 42) reporting κ above 0.8.

CONCLUSION:

We found that a substantial proportion of ED patients who die postencounter or are critically ill are not designated as high acuity at triage. Opportunity to improve interrater reliability and triage performance in identifying patients at risk of adverse outcome exists.

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