A determination of emergency department pre-triage times in patients not arriving by ambulance compared to widely used guideline recommendations

Martin Betz, James Stempien, Sachin Trivedi, Rhonda Bryce
CJEM 2017, 19 (4): 265-270

OBJECTIVES: Emergency department (ED) lengths of stay are measured from the time of patient registration or triage. The time that patients wait in line prior to registration and triage has not been well described. We sought to characterize pre-triage wait times and compare them to recommended physician response times, as per the Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale (CTAS).

METHODS: This observational study documented the time that consenting patients entered the ED and the time that they were formally registered and triaged. Participants' CTAS scores were collected from the electronic record. Patients arriving to the ED by ambulance were excluded.

RESULTS: A total of 536 participants were timed over 13 separate intervals. Of these, 11 left without being triaged. Participants who scored either CTAS 1 or 2 (n=53) waited a median time of 3.1 (interquartile range [IQR]: 0.43, 11.1) minutes. Patients triaged as CTAS 3 (n=187) waited a median of 11.4 (IQR: 1.6, 24.9) minutes, CTAS 4 (n=139) a median of 16.6 (IQR: 6.0, 29.7) minutes, and CTAS 5 (n=146) a median of 17.5 (IQR: 6.8, 37.3) minutes. Of patients subsequently categorized as CTAS 1 or 2, 20.8% waited longer than the recommended time-to-physician of 15 minutes to be triaged.

CONCLUSIONS: All urban EDs closely follow patients' wait times, often stratified according to triage category, which are assumed to be time-stamped upon a patient's arrival in the ED. We note that pre-triage times exceed the CTAS recommended time-to-physician in a possibly significant proportion of patients. EDs should consider documenting times to treatment from the moment of patient arrival rather than registration.


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