[Prediction of further hospital treatment for emergency patients by emergency medical service physicians]

M Bernhard, S Trautwein, R Stepan, P Zahn, C-A Greim, A Gries
Der Anaesthesist 2014, 63 (5): 394-400

INTRODUCTION: Prehospital assessment of illness and injury severity with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) score and hospital pre-arrival notification of a patient who is likely to need intensive care unit (ICU) or intermediate care unit (IMC) admission are both common in Germany's physician-staffed emergency medical services (EMS) system.

AIM: This study aimed at comparing the prehospital evaluation of severity of disease or injuries by EMS physicians and the subsequent clinical treatment in unselected emergency department (ED) patients.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: This study involved a prospective observational analysis of patients transported to the ED of an academic level I hospital escorted by an EMS physician over a period of 6 months (February-July 2011). The physician's qualification and the patient's NACA score were documented and the EMS physician was asked to predict whether the patient would need hospital admission and, if so, to the general ward, IMC or ICU. After the ED treatment, discharge or admission, outcome and length of hospital and ICU or IMC stay were documented.

RESULTS: A total of 378 mostly non-trauma patients (88 %) treated by experienced EMS physicians could be enrolled. The number of patients discharged from the ED decreased, while the number of patients admitted to the ICU increased with higher NACA scores. Prehospital prediction of discharge or admission, IMC or ICU treatment by EMS physicians was accurate in 47 % of the patients. In 40 % of patients a lower level of care was sufficient while 12 % needed treatment on a higher level of care than that predicted by EMS physicians. Of the patients 39 % who were predicted to be discharged after ED treatment, were admitted to hospital and 48 % of patients predicted to be admitted to the IMC were admitted to the general ward. Patients predicted to be admitted to the ICU were admitted to the ICU in 75 %. Higher NACA scores were associated with increased mortality and a longer hospital IMC or ICU length of stay, but significant differences were only found between patients with NACA V versus VI scores or patients predicted to be treated on the IMC versus the ICU.

CONCLUSIONS: Prehospital NACA scores indicate the need for inpatient treatment, but neither hospital discharge or admission nor need of IMC or ICU admission after initial ED treatment could be sufficiently predicted by EMS physicians. Thus, hospital prenotification in order to predispose IMC or ICU capacities does not seem to be useful in cases where an ED can reassess admitted EMS patients.

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