Introduction: Emergency departments (EDs) are replacing acute specialised wards in Denmark. The aim was to compare time to a treatment plan for patients with acute abdomen at a surgical assessment unit (SAU) and at an ED, respectively.
Material and methods: A comparative prospective observational study was performed. The data collected included time to a doctor, a surgeon, a plan for treatment, analgesics, blood tests and time spent with health professionals.
Results: The study included 109 patients. In the SAU, the median waiting time to be seen by a doctor was 72 min. and in the ED it was 86 min. (p = 0.25). The median time to be seen by a surgeon was 72 min. in the SAU and 148 min. in the ED (p ≤ 0.0001). In the SAU, the median time to a treatment plan was 131 min. and in the ED 166 min. (p = 0.02). In the SAU, patients spent 15 min. with nurses, in the ED 32 min. (p ≤ 0.0001). In the SAU, patients spent 11 min. with doctors in the ED 24 min. (p ≤ 0.0001).
Conclusion: Waiting time until a plan was presented to the patient was significantly shorter in the SAU than in the ED and this owed to the presence of a specialist surgeon at the hospital front-end in the SAU. The staff spent significantly more time with patients in the ED than in the SAU and significantly more blood tests were taken.
Funding: University of Southern Denmark, Odense University Hospital and Novo Nordisk Foundation.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01733511.