Consensus-based Criterion Standard for the Identification of Pediatric Patients Who Need Emergency Medical Services Transport to a Hospital with Higher-level Pediatric Resources

Acad Emerg Med. 2018 Dec;25(12):1409-1414. doi: 10.1111/acem.13625. Epub 2018 Oct 30.


Background: Emergency medical services (EMS) providers must be able to identify the most appropriate destination facility when treating children with potentially severe medical illnesses. Currently, no validated tool exists to assist EMS providers in identifying children who need transport to a hospital with higher-level pediatric care. For such a tool to be developed, a criterion standard needs to be defined that identifies children who received higher-level pediatric medical care.

Objective: The objective was to develop a consensus-based criterion standard for children with a medical complaint who need a hospital with higher-level pediatric resources.

Methods: Eleven local and national experts in EMS, emergency medicine (EM), and pediatric EM were recruited. Initial discussions identified themes for potential criteria. These themes were used to develop specific criteria that were included in a modified Delphi survey, which was electronically delivered. The criteria were refined iteratively based on participant responses. To be included, a criterion required at least 80% agreement among participants. If an item had less than 50% agreement, it was removed. A criterion with 50% to 79% agreement was modified based on participant suggestions and included on the next survey, along with any new suggested criteria. Voting continued until no new criteria were suggested and all criteria received at least 80% agreement.

Results: All 11 recruited experts participated in all seven voting rounds. After the seventh vote, there was agreement on each item and no new criteria were suggested. The recommended criterion standard included 13 items that apply to patients 14 years old or younger. They included IV antibiotics for suspicion of sepsis or a seizure treated with two different classes of anticonvulsive medications within 2 hours, airway management, blood product administration, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, electrical therapy, administration of specific IV/IO drugs or respiratory assistance within 4 hours, interventional radiology or surgery within 6 hours, intensive care unit admission, specific comorbid conditions with two or more abnormal vital signs, and technology-assisted children seen for device malfunction.

Conclusion: We developed a 13-item consensus-based criterion standard definition for identifying children with medical complaints who need the resources of a hospital equipped to provide higher-level pediatric services. This criterion standard will allow us to create a tool to improve pediatric patient care by assisting EMS providers in identifying the most appropriate destination facility for ill children.

Publication types

  • Consensus Development Conference
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Decision Support Techniques
  • Delphi Technique
  • Emergency Medical Services / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Pediatric Emergency Medicine / standards*
  • Transportation of Patients / standards*
  • Triage / standards*