Optimising the response to acute clinical deterioration: the role of observation and response charts

Intern Med J. 2020 Jul;50(7):790-797. doi: 10.1111/imj.14444.


We sought the role of the hospital inpatient observation and response chart (ORC) in reducing adverse outcomes. We sourced articles written in English and published in PubMed. Track, trigger and response systems can be tiered and use single parameter or aggregate scoring systems; the latter being more prone to error. The documentation and detection of abnormal vital signs can be affected by choice of trigger and response and by ORC design. There is considerable variation in the design of ORC and of rapid response systems (RRS) in general, and this impairs assessment of their efficacy. A high rate of modification of pre-determined triggers and poor sensitivity of measured outcomes further compromise systematic review. The best-designed ORC and RRS should optimise the frequency of response team activation to minimise adverse patient outcomes without excess resource utilisation. The role and the risks of electronic data recording are under-explored. Detecting and responding to deteriorating patients relies upon accurate and clear documentation of vital signs. ORC design and staff education on ORC implementation and usage are integral to minimising ALF and optimising patient outcomes. Standardisation of the design of both the ORC and the hospital RRS are overdue.

Keywords: deteriorating patient; observation and response chart; rapid response system; rapid response team.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Deterioration*
  • Hospital Rapid Response Team*
  • Humans
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic
  • Vital Signs