Impact of disaster drills on patient flow in a pediatric emergency department

Nathan Timm, Stephanie Kennebeck
Academic Emergency Medicine 2008, 15 (6): 544-8

OBJECTIVES: Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)-accredited hospitals must conduct disaster drills twice a year, with one incorporating a mass casualty incident to the emergency department (ED). The authors found no studies describing the potential negative impact on the quality of care real patients in the ED receive during these drills. The objective was to determine the impact that mass casualty drills have on the timeliness of care for nondisaster patients in a pediatric ED.

METHODS: Since 2001, nine disaster drills involving mass casualties to the ED were conducted at the authors' institution. The authors studied 5-, 10-, and 24-hour blocks of time surrounding these events and defined quality measures as the timeliness of care in terms of length of stay (LOS) in ED, time-to-triage, and time-to-physician. Drill dates were compared with control dates (the same weekday on the following week). Paired t-tests were used to compare outcomes of interest between drill and control days.

RESULTS: Nine drill days and nine control days were studied. There was no statistically significant difference between drill dates and control dates in average time-to-triage and time-to-emergency physician and average ED LOS. Admitted patients spent less time in the ED during drill dates.

CONCLUSIONS: Disaster drills at this institution do not appear to significantly affect the timeliness of care to nondisaster drill ED patients. Attention should be paid to the quality of care "real" patients receive to ensure that their care is not jeopardized during an artificial stress to the system during a disaster drill.

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