Objective: To determine whether an integrated care pathway (ICP) could improve care delivered to patients coming to an emergency department only or to patients who were subsequently admitted.
Study design: Children (age, 2-16 years; n = 298) coming to the ED with acute asthma/wheeze, were randomized by using a cluster design to either standard care or care delivered by an ICP.
Results: Children discharged from the ED who received care with an ICP (n = 118) received more prednisolone (81%; standard, 63%; P = .03) and increased advice to obtain primary care review (72%; standard, 33%; P < .0001). A total of 180 children were admitted (94 ICP, 86 standard). The rate of recovery was unchanged by ICP. The mean ICP length of stay (37.6 hours; range, 33.5-42.4 hours), was 93% of the mean standard length of care (40.7 hours; range, 35.9-46; P = .36). When a discharge checklist was completed (60 of 94 cases), the mean ICP length of stay was 34.2 hours (range, 30.5-38.4 hours; P = .07 versus standard). An ICP resulted in a 30% reduction in prescribing errors (mean, 10.4; standard, 14.8; P = .002). Eighty-four of 94 children with an ICP received a 48-hour discharge plan (89%) versus 35 of 86 children with standard care (41%). More clinical contacts were observed in children receiving care by an ICP (mean, 22, versus standard, 19.2: P = .0004).
Conclusion: An acute asthma/wheeze ICP improved education and prescribing errors, modestly reduced the length of stay when discharge criteria were adhered to, but did not influence recovery time. Further consideration of the effect on staff workload is required.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00345267.