Increasing Safe Outpatient Management of Emergency Department Patients With Pulmonary Embolism: A Controlled Pragmatic Trial

Ann Intern Med. 2018 Dec 18;169(12):855-865. doi: 10.7326/M18-1206. Epub 2018 Nov 13.


Background: Many low-risk patients with acute pulmonary embolism (PE) in the emergency department (ED) are eligible for outpatient care but are hospitalized nonetheless. One impediment to home discharge is the difficulty of identifying which patients can safely forgo hospitalization.

Objective: To evaluate the effect of an integrated electronic clinical decision support system (CDSS) to facilitate risk stratification and decision making at the site of care for patients with acute PE.

Design: Controlled pragmatic trial. ( NCT03601676).

Setting: All 21 community EDs of an integrated health care delivery system (Kaiser Permanente Northern California).

Patients: Adult ED patients with acute PE.

Intervention: Ten intervention sites selected by convenience received a multidimensional technology and education intervention at month 9 of a 16-month study period (January 2014 to April 2015); the remaining 11 sites served as concurrent controls.

Measurements: The primary outcome was discharge to home from either the ED or a short-term (<24-hour) outpatient observation unit based in the ED. Adverse outcomes included return visits for PE-related symptoms within 5 days and recurrent venous thromboembolism, major hemorrhage, and all-cause mortality within 30 days. A difference-in-differences approach was used to compare pre-post changes at intervention versus control sites, with adjustment for demographic and clinical characteristics.

Results: Among 881 eligible patients diagnosed with PE at intervention sites and 822 at control sites, adjusted home discharge increased at intervention sites (17.4% pre- to 28.0% postintervention) without a concurrent increase at control sites (15.1% pre- and 14.5% postintervention). The difference-in-differences comparison was 11.3 percentage points (95% CI, 3.0 to 19.5 percentage points; P = 0.007). No increases were seen in 5-day return visits related to PE or in 30-day major adverse outcomes associated with CDSS implementation.

Limitation: Lack of random allocation.

Conclusion: Implementation and structured promotion of a CDSS to aid physicians in site-of-care decision making for ED patients with acute PE safely increased outpatient management.

Primary funding source: Garfield Memorial National Research Fund and The Permanente Medical Group Delivery Science and Physician Researcher Programs.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Pragmatic Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care / methods*
  • California
  • Clinical Decision-Making*
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Readmission
  • Pulmonary Embolism / complications
  • Pulmonary Embolism / therapy*
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data