Background: In Scandinavia, emergency department triage and patient flow processes, are under development. In Sweden, the triage development has resulted in two new triage scales, the Adaptive Process Triage and the Medical Emergency Triage and Treatment System. Both these scales have logistic components, aiming to improve patient flows. The aim of this study was to report the development and current status of emergency department triage and patient flow processes in Sweden.
Methods: In 2009 and 2010 the Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment sent out a questionnaire to the ED managers in all (74) Swedish hospital emergency departments. The questionnaire comprised questions about triage and interventions to improve patient flows.
Results: Nearly all (97%) EDs in Sweden employed a triage scale in 2010, which was an increase from 2009 (73%). Further, the Medical Emergency Triage and Treatment System was the triage scale most commonly implemented across the country. The implementation of flow-related interventions was not as common, but more than half (59%) of the EDs have implemented or plan to implement nurse requested X-ray.
Conclusions: There has been an increase in the use of triage scales in Swedish EDs during the last few years, with acceleration for the past two years. Most EDs have come to use the Medical Emergency Triage and Treatment System, which also indicates regional co-operation. The implementation of different interventions for improved patient flows in EDs most likely is explained by the problem of crowding. Generally, more studies are needed to investigate the economical aspects of these interventions.