The impact of emergency department triage on the treatment outcomes of cancer patients with febrile neutropenia: A retrospective review

Anas Alsharawneh, Joy Maddigan, Alice Gaudine, Holly Etchegary, Zhiwei Gao
International Emergency Nursing 2020 July 1, 51: 100888

INTRODUCTION: The emergency department (ED) is an important entry point for patients with cancer requiring acute care due to oncological emergencies. Febrile neutropenia (FN) is one of the most common oncological emergencies and carries a significant risk of morbidity and mortality. There is evidence from previous studies that FN patients wait far longer in the ED than recommended by international guidelines.

PURPOSE: The aim was to examine whether individuals with cancer presenting at the ED with FN were triaged appropriately, and to explore if, and how, triage affected their treatment outcomes.

METHODS: A retrospective cohort design was employed to collect data over five years from all available ED records of adult cancer patients who presented with fever.

RESULTS: Of the 431 eligible patients, 63% (n = 272) were assigned triage scores that were detrimental to their immediate health. Findings from the multiple linear regression analyses showed that inaccurate or under triage was significantly associated with delayed times for the initial physician assessment, administration of antibiotics, and decision on admission. The absence of fever at the time of triage assessment contributed significantly to the prediction of under triage.

CONCLUSION: The allocation of patients with FN to a lower, inaccurate priority was partly responsible for the inability of those patients to meet the standard benchmarks for the initial physician assessment and the administration of antibiotics identified by the triage and febrile neutropenia guidelines. Ongoing strategies are needed to both enhance the application of the triage guidelines and institute organizational and system changes that promote timeliness and effectiveness throughout the entire ED episode of care.

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