Study objective: Triage standing orders are used in emergency departments (EDs) to initiate evaluation when there is no bed available. This study evaluates the effect of diagnostic triage standing orders on ED treatment time of adult patients who presented with a chief complaint for which triage standing orders had been developed.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective nested cohort study of patients treated in one academic ED between January 2007 and August 2009. In this ED, triage nurses can initiate full or partial triage standing orders for patients with chest pain, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, or genitourinary complaints. We matched patients who received triage standing orders to those who received room orders with respect to clinical and temporal factors, using a propensity score. We compared the median treatment time of patients with triage standing orders (partial or full) to those with room orders, using multivariate linear regression.
Results: Of the 15,188 eligible patients, 25% received full triage standing orders, 56% partial triage standing orders, and 19% room orders. The unadjusted median ED treatment time for patients who did not receive triage standing orders was 282 minutes versus 230 minutes for those who received a partial triage standing order or full triage standing orders (18% decrease). Controlling for other factors, triage standing orders were associated with a 16% reduction (95% confidence interval -18% to -13%) in the median treatment time, regardless of chief complaint.
Conclusion: Diagnostic testing at triage was associated with a substantial reduction in ED treatment time for 4 common chief complaints. This intervention warrants further evaluation in other EDs and with different clinical conditions and tests.
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