Objective: This study aimed to determine the impact of a triage team on patient length of stay (LOS) overall and by patient acuity in a pediatric emergency department (ED).
Methods: We conducted a cluster randomized controlled trial in which existing ED staffing was reallocated to include a triage team. The study was conducted in an urban children's ED Monday through Friday, from 6:00 P.M. to 2:00 A.M., for 4 weeks in February 2008. Twenty study periods were randomized according to the absence or presence of a triage team (physician, nurse, and nurse assistant) that initiated evaluations of nonurgent and urgent patients. We compared patient LOS between study periods with and without triage teams, using generalized estimating equations to allow for the clustering of effects by day.
Results: Of the 1726 patients, 843 were seen during nontriage team times and 883 during triage team times. Overall, there was a 21-minute decrease in LOS during triage team times compared with nontriage team times, but this was not statistically significant. Stratifying by patient acuity level, LOS was significantly decreased during triage team times for nonurgent (25 minutes, P = 0.001) and urgent patients (50 minutes, P = 0.047) but prolonged for emergent patients (79 minutes, P = 0.019) and unchanged for critically ill patients.
Conclusions: Overall, although we did not find a statistically significant decrease in the LOS with the use of a dedicated triage team, we did find statistically significant decreases in the stratified analysis for urgent, nonurgent patient, and discharged patients. An important reason statistical significance may not have been reached in this study may have been our hospital's current staffing model, and therefore, the use of a triage team as additional staffing versus reallocation of existing staffing may depend on an institution's current level of staffing and its ability to meet patient demand.