Emergency Department Pneumonia Patients Who do not Meet the Six-Hour Criteria for Antibiotic Administration: Do They Have a Different Clinical Presentation?

J Clin Med Res. 2012 Oct;4(5):338-45. doi: 10.4021/jocmr1092w. Epub 2012 Sep 12.


Background: The Joint Commission (JC) has set a quality of care standard for emergency department (ED) patients diagnosed with community acquired pneumonia (CAP) that states that they are to receive antibiotics within six hours of presentation to the ED. Hospitals have been able to demonstrate that the majority of patients meet these criteria, yet there are still many who do not. Previously published studies have reported that there are several issues that contribute to prolonged times to antibiotic administration including ED crowding and atypical clinical presentations. This study was undertaken to identify factors existing early in the patient encounter that may be associated with failure to meet the Joint Commission's six-hour standard for antibiotic administration.

Methods: This was an IRB-approved, retrospective observational study covering 36 months in an academic emergency department. All adults with an admission diagnosis of CAP were eligible but were excluded if their discharge diagnosis was not CAP, if hospitalized within the previous 14 days, or if HIV positive. Univariate analysis and multiple logistic regression with stepwise variable selection were performed comparing patients who met and did not meet JC standards. The analysis included demographics (age, sex), chief complaint at triage and to doctor (fever, dyspnea, cough, chest pain, weakness/fatigue, abdominal pain), presence of altered mental status, triage vital signs, co-morbidities, day of week and time of day of presentation.

Results: A total of 736 cases were eligible; 199 cases met exclusion criteria; 43 charts were unavailable; 494 were included in the study group (363 with complete antibiotic time records; 131 were incomplete). From the univariate analysis, respiratory rate (RR) and oxygen saturation were the only factors that met Bonferroni criteria for statistical significance when comparing those who met and did not meet the JC six-hour criteria (RR 25 ± 9 vs 22 ± 6 breaths/minute, respectively, P = 0.002; oxygen saturation 87 ± 10% vs 92 ± 5%, respectively, P < 0.001). Multiple logistic regression identified triage pulse rate, oxygen saturation, presence of altered mental status, hour of day, and day of week as variables associated with time to antibiotic administration. Chances for meeting the standard were increased by 10% for each 5-beat increase in pulse rate or 1% decrease in oxygen saturation. If the person exhibited altered mental status, they were > 3.5 times more likely to meet the 6-hour criteria. If they presented to ED between 3 PM and 10 PM chances of meeting criteria were reduced by about 65%. If they presented on a Thursday, chances improved 2.8 times.

Conclusions: Compared to patients who did meet Joint Commission criteria, those who did not receive antibiotics within 6 hours were likely to have triage pulse rates and O(2) saturation levels closer to normal, thus contributing to diagnostic uncertainty. They were also likely to present to the ED at the most crowded time of day. Likelihood to meet JC criteria was improved if O(2) saturation was below normal, pulse rate was elevated, if they exhibited mental confusion, or if they presented to the ED very early or very late in the day, or on a lower census day.

Keywords: CAP; Community acquired pneumonia; Joint Commission.