Unreported clinical deterioration in emergency department patients: a point prevalence study

Belinda Mitchell Scott, Julie Considine, Mari Botti
Australasian Emergency Nursing Journal: AENJ 2015, 18 (1): 33-41

BACKGROUND: Formal processes for recognising and responding to deteriorating emergency department (ED) patients are variable despite features of the ED context that may increase the risk of unrecognised or unreported clinical deterioration. The aim of this study was to determine the frequency and nature of unreported clinical deterioration in emergency care.

METHODS: A prospective, exploratory descriptive design was used. Data were collected during nine point prevalence surveys (PPS) from 1 May to 30 June 2009 at an urban district hospital in Melbourne Australia. Patients present in ED cubicles during the PPS (n=186) were included in the study.

RESULTS: Unreported clinical deterioration occurred in 12.9% of patients (n=24/186). Unreported clinical deterioration was more common when: (i) patients aged ≥65 years comprised >50% of patients within the ED; (ii) occupancy of the resuscitation, monitored or general adult cubicles was >50%; and (iii) the proportion of patients requiring treatment within 30 min (Australasian Triage Category 1, 2 or 3) was ≤50% of the total ED population.

CONCLUSIONS: Unreported clinical deterioration is an important quality indicator of emergency care. The effect of the collective ED patient group on the frequency and nature of adverse events for individual ED patients is poorly understood and warrants further investigation.

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