Background: An influenza pandemic may increase Emergency Department attendance 7-fold. In the absence of a validated "flu score" to assess severity and assist triage decisions from primary into secondary care, current UK draft management recommendations have suggested the use of CURB-65 and chest X-ray as a proxy. We developed the Pandemic Medical Early Warning Score (PMEWS) to track and triage flu patients, taking into account physiological and social factors and without requiring laboratory or radiology services.
Methods: Validation of the PMEWS score against an unselected group of patients presenting and admitted to an urban UK teaching hospital with community acquired pneumonia. Comparison of PMEWS performance against CURB-65 for three outcome measures: need for admission, admission to high dependency or intensive care, and inpatient mortality using area under ROC curve (AUROC) and the Hanley-McNeil method of comparison.
Results: PMEWS was a better predictor of need for admission (AUROC 0.944) and need of higher level of care (AUROC 0.83) compared with CURB-65 (AUROCs 0.881 and 0.640 respectively) but was not as good a predictor of subsequent inpatient mortality (AUROC 0.663).
Conclusion: Although further validation against other disease datasets as a proxy for pandemic flu is required, we show that PMEWS is rapidly applicable for triage of large numbers of flu patients to self-care, hospital admission or HDU/ICU care. It is scalable to reflect changing admission thresholds that will occur during a pandemic.