Medicolegal documentation of prehospital triage

Ann Emerg Med. 1990 May;19(5):547-51. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(05)82187-0.


Patients evaluated by paramedics but not transported to the hospital account for 50% to 90% of emergency medical services lawsuits. We reviewed 2,698 consecutive paramedic run reports to examine documentation in these cases. Documentation criteria for prehospital patient release were history, physical examination, vital signs, mental status, lack of significant mental impairment, and for patients refusing care, that risks of refusing were understood. Criteria for appropriate release were met in 65.2% of cases. Criteria omitted in inappropriate releases were risks of refusing care in 481 (51.3% of inappropriate releases), vitals in 320 (34.1%), mental status in 188 (20.0%), lack of impairment in 120 (12.8%), and history or physical in 19 (2.0%) cases. Age from 0 to 14 and 65 or more years and prehospital assessment of hyperventilation, psychiatric emergency, choking, infection, and patient deceased were significantly associated with appropriate release. Age from 35 to 54 years and prehospital diagnosis of no injury, head injury, seizure, minor trauma, and ethanol use were significantly associated with inappropriate releases. There was no association of appropriate release or inappropriate release with patient sex, contact with medical control, length of encounter, or time of day. Only one patient complication was believed due to inappropriate triage; this could be improved by implementation of standardized criteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alaska
  • Allied Health Personnel
  • Computers
  • Emergencies
  • Emergency Medical Services / organization & administration
  • Emergency Medical Services / standards*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care
  • Records*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Triage