Triage of patients out of the emergency department: three-year experience

Am J Emerg Med. 1992 May;10(3):195-9. doi: 10.1016/0735-6757(92)90207-E.


Because of severe emergency department (ED) overcrowding, the authors initiated a program of referring certain patients who were assessed as not needing emergency care away from the ED. A selected group of patients who presented to a busy university ED were refused treatment and triaged away following a medical screening examination performed by a nurse. In this 3-year study 136,794 patients presented to the triage area in the ED, of which 21,069 (15%) were refused care and referred elsewhere. Letters and calls to all referral clinics, eight local EDs, and the coroner's office identified no patients who had been grossly mistriaged, and only insignificant adverse outcomes could be identified. Additional follow-up on 3,740 individuals triaged away was performed by telephone. Responses from this survey indicated that 42% of persons received care elsewhere the same day, 37% within 2 days, and 22% decided not to seek medical care. A group of 1.6% sought care at other hospital EDs for minor complaints. The authors concluded that a group of patients can be selectively triaged out of the ED without significant adverse outcomes, which may offer one approach to the problem of ED overcrowding.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • California
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Care Rationing
  • Hospital Bed Capacity, 300 to 499
  • Hospitals, University / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Discharge
  • Triage*