Fast track and the pediatric emergency department: resource utilization and patients outcomes

L C Hampers, S Cha, D J Gutglass, H J Binns, S E Krug
Academic Emergency Medicine 1999, 6 (11): 1153-9

OBJECTIVE: To examine differences in the evaluation, management, and outcomes for patients seen in an on-site "fast track" (FT) vs the main ED.

METHODS: Over a three-month period, patients presenting to an urban pediatric ED were prospectively assessed. Patients included were: triaged as "nonurgent"; aged 2 months to 10 years; not chronically ill; and had fever, or complaint of vomiting, diarrhea, or decreased oral intake. Evening and weekend care was provided in the FT; at all other times these low-acuity patients were seen in the ED. Seven days after the visit, families were interviewed by telephone.

RESULTS: Four hundred seventy-nine and 557 patients were seen in the FT and ED, respectively. The patients in the two settings did not differ in age, clinical condition, race, or commercial insurance status. Patient mean test charges were $27 and $52 for the FT and ED, respectively (p < 0.01). Twenty-four percent of the FT patients vs 41% of the ED patients had tests performed (p < 0.01). Average length of stay was 28 minutes shorter in the FT (95% CI = 19 to 36, p < 0.01). Follow-up was completed for 480 of 755 families with telephones (64%). The FT and ED patients did not differ at follow-up: 90% vs 88% had improved conditions (p = 0.53), 18% vs 15% had received unscheduled follow-up care (p = 0.44), and 94% of the families in both groups were satisfied with the visit (p = 0.98).

CONCLUSIONS: Compared with those in the main ED, the study patients seen in the FT had fewer tests ordered and had briefer lengths of stay. These findings were not explained by differences in patient ages, vital signs, or demographic characteristics. No difference in final outcomes or satisfaction was detected among the families contacted for follow-up.

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