Introduction: In Australia a nationally adopted five tiered triage scale called the Australasian triage scale (ATS) is used for the purpose of differentiating patient acuity levels for all patients that present to an emergency department (ED). The scale was formulated with the aim of promoting a standardized approach to triage. Numerous studies now suggest that the ATS has not been successful in achieving this intention. The Toowoomba adult trauma triage tool (TATTT) seeks to address this deficiency by providing an evidence based, reproducible, reliable and valid method of triage categorisation, albeit in a select group of patients.
Method: Ten triage nurses from Toowoomba health service (THS) and five from Princess Alexandra Hospital in Queensland, Australia were enrolled in the study. Each participant rated five written simulations before receiving training in the TATTT. Each participant then rated nine written scenarios, five simulated scenarios on video and one computer simulated scenario with the TATTT. Parallel triaging of actual adult injury based presentations to THS ED was also undertaken.
Results: The overall percentage agreement for all simulations for which data were available was 87%. The overall kappa statistic was 0.82 with a 95% confidence interval from 0.76 to 0.88. The overall percentage agreement between the triage category assigned using existing triage practices and the triage category assigned by the TATTT was approximately 47% with an estimated kappa of kappa(') = 0.19 (95% confidence interval [-0.02,0.40]).
Conclusion: Evidence from this study suggests that the TATTT provides systematically different results compared to current triage practices utilising the ATS. This provided evidence that triage practices did not reflect current evidence or available descriptors. Additionally TATTT has greater reliability than current triage practices.